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Airline Fines Not Enforced, Raises Safety Questions

Posted on April 8, 2011

CBS News wanted to find out how many airlines actually pay fines after they are cited by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for safety problems. The story evolved from the failure of a fuselage of a Boeing 737-300 that developed a five-foot hole in the roof during a Southwest Airlines flight on Friday, April 1.

Airlines are regularly fined for violations. Southwest Airlines improperly inspected 46 of its airplanes for metal fatigue, according to the FAA in 2007, and the company received a $10.5 million fine which was reduced on appeal to $7.5 million. Frontier Airline reduced its fine for a violation on weight restrictions in 2002 from $200,000 to $133,000, and Alaska Air, fined $500,000 for defective exit lights, paid only $333,000.

Looking at FAA records from 200 to 2009, the network found that the airline industry received a total break of $7.2 million in fines after it filed appeals.

Where does that leave the public?
The appeals process is allowed by law and the industry claims Southwest Airlines has the second best safety record in the industry. However, finding a gaping hole in the fuselage of the plane at 34,000 feet is not the way to uncover potential problems. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has an aviation website that lets the public understand more about accidents on flights.

The FAA is ordering an emergency inspection of 80 Boeing 737-300 planes, most of the fleet belonging to Southwest and two to Alaska Airlines. At least 700 flights were cancelled. The suspected cause of the defect is a weakness in the aluminum skin caused by about the pressure change from 39,000 landings and take-offs.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a Florida aviation accident caused by the airline industry, the Jacksonville aviation crash attorneys at Farah & Farah will offer you a complimentary consultation to explore your options to seek compensation from the at-fault party.