Southwest Airlines feels the $10.2-million fine is too much, negotiates with FAA for reduction

Friday, January 2, 2009, 4:58 by Aviation Correspondent

Southwest Airlines, the low-cost airline based in Dallas, Texas, the United States, is negotiating with the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) seeking to reduce the $10.2-million penalty that the aviation regulator had imposed on the airline for flying its Boeing 737 jets without required inspections.

The Federal Aviation Administration fined Southwest Airlines in March 2008 after the airline operated 46 of the Boeing 737 jets on almost 60,000 flights in 2006 and 2007 without full inspections for possible fuselage cracks.

The FAA subsequently changed practices and personnel following disclosures that it allowed Southwest Airlines to fly the planes in question after the workers, who tried to alert their managers to oversight problems, were rebuffed.

A spokesman for the US Federal Aviation Administration was quoted by the media as saying: “The FAA is till talking with Southwest Airlines after the Dallas-based carrier missed an August 29, 2008, deadline to pay a record $10.2-million fine.”

Meanwhile, Southwest Airlines said in a press release: “The airline has an open and cordial dialogue that is still going on with the FAA in hopes of resolving the matter. The airline feels that the fine is not fair or reasonable.”

“Southwest Airlines has since created an independent department to ensure that it follows the FAA’s orders, and it has quarterly compliance programmes that involve senior managers,” the Southwest Airlines press release added.

“Southwest Airlines,” the press release added, “does not deserve such a large penalty, partly because it reported the missed inspections to regulators and has improved safety procedures. Southwest has set up an independent division to oversee compliance with safety rules and hired an outside company to audit maintenance procedures. We are looking for a solution that is fair and reasonable given the facts.”

Southwest Airlines, the biggest low-fare carrier in the United States, has its largest focus city at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, the United States.

The Federal Aviation Administration also is considering a fine of $20 million to $30 million for American Airlines, based in Fort Worth, Texas, the United States, for the carrier’s failure to comply with maintenance directives for its Boeing MD-80 jets earlier in 2008.

American Airlines had to ground its entire fleet of 300 Boeing MD-80 jets in April 2008, resulting in cancellation of 3,300 flights, because of flaws and misunderstood procedures for the spacing of clamps and routing of wiring bundles in the planes.

The Federal Aviation Administration is an agency of the United States Department of Transportation with authority to regulate and oversee all aspects of civil aviation in the United States. The Federal Aviation Act of 1958 created the group under the name Federal Aviation Agency. The current name, the Federal Aviation Administration, was adopted in 1967 when it became a part of the United States Department of Transportation. The FAA is the single most influential governmentally run aviation agency in the world, with the European Aviation Safety Agency in a close second.