FAA To Fine American Airlines $7.1 Million For Safety Violations

The FAA is not pleased with American Airlines. They say the airline should pay $7.1 million in fines for deferring maintainence and not complying with employee drug testing requirements. AA says the fines are too severe and will appeal.

“We do not agree with the FAA’s [latest] findings and characterizations of American’s action in these cases,” the airline said in a statement. “We believe the proposed penalties are excessive.”

The FAA defended the fine in a statement of its own:
“The FAA believes the large total amount of the fine for these violations is appropriate because American Airlines was aware that appropriate repairs were needed, and instead deferred maintenance.”

As for the drug testing issue, the FAA wants to fine AA $1.7 million for warning its employees ahead of time when they were scheduled to be tested. The tests are supposed to be unannounced.

The FAA proposed $7.1 million in fines against American for violations that included:

•$4.4 million for improperly deferring maintenance in December

•$1.7 million for problems with its drug- and alcohol-testing program

•$1 million for operating planes without properly inspecting the emergency- path lighting system

American Airlines faces $7.1M in fines for safety violations [Dallas Morning News]
(Photo: Joshua Davis jdavis.info )

Comments

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  1. “We do not agree with the FAA’s [latest] findings and characterizations of American’s action in these cases,” the airline said in a statement. “We believe the proposed penalties are excessive.”

    Translation: “We believe that ‘requirements’ is too strong a word. We prefer the terms maintenance suggestions and drug testing guidelines.”

  2. tripnman says:

    This just in… American Airlines announced today that effective immediately they will be increasing the fee for the first checked bag to $50,000. Second and third bags will be $75,000 each, unless of course you are military. Each ticket sold will also have an “Emergency Path Lighting Rental” fee of $100 per passenger.

  3. dmbbnl429 says:

    @tripnman: you beat me to it!!!

  4. MayorBee says:

    But when they need a bailout, is there some way the government can say “Don’t even think about using this money we’re giving you to cover that fine we imposed on you”? Or does the money get all mixed up together?

  5. Ausoleil says:

    They were warned by the FAA, but ignored that and flew planes deemed unsafe anyway. Too bad for them.

    I honestly believe AA thinks the fine is excessive because it is far more money than they made flying flights on the aircraft in question. More than likely they willingly chose to fly thinking that they would simply receive a letter of reprimand or a warning.

    Sorry, AA. You lost. Make the check payable to the US Treasury.

  6. sleze69 says:

    I missed the fine for launching planes without enough fuel…

  7. Average_Joe says:

    You fine Comcast and that means it’s the end of the industry, but you fine a bankrupt air carrier millions and it’s ok? The FCC needs to learn from the FAA about how to enforce rules.

  8. Bladefist says:

    @tripnman: Exactly. The FAA just fined me and you. This is the problem with our government. No clue about trickle down economics.

    AA deserves punishment. But making it 7.1 million only hurts me and you.

  9. AD8BC says:

    Not to knock the seriousness of the allegations… but Bladefist is right.

    I’m looking out my office window at planes taking off on runway 9C at DFW Airport, imagining how bad my project travel budget is going to be hit by this fine…

    Does anybody here also wonder about American Airline’s recent deal with the Komen Breast Cancer foundation for something like 8 million dollars? I mean, donating money to stop breast cancer is great, but, they really don’t have the money to do this right now…

  10. katylostherart says:

    i’m ok with this as i avoid aa like the plague.

  11. AD8BC says:

    @tripnman: “In the event of a loss of cabin pressure, a panel will open above your head. To release your oxygen mask, insert one $10 bill, or swipe your credit card in the convenient card reader. After your transaction has been approved, the oxygen mask will release and oxygen will flow for two minutes. After two minutes, please insert an additional ten dollars. If you rented your oxygen with a credit card, the renewal will auto-charge for your convenience”

  12. tripnman says:

    @Bladefist: Agreed that punitive fines eventually trickle down to be paid for by the end consumer, but I’m just not sure what the appropriate, alternate, course of action would be. The high cost to the airline for violating regulations meant to keep travelers safe in the skies will do one of two things – increase cost (and lower value) or force the airline to find other, less obvious, ways to cut corners. We the consumer can’t win.

  13. psm321 says:

    @Bladefist: No, because you can choose another airline that doesn’t have to raise rates, because it wasn’t fined, because it did the right thing. So AA loses out on customers as punishment.

  14. Ein2015 says:

    Why don’t these fines go to the consumer instead, with a little off the top for the FAA’s operations?

    Seriously, if people were flying in UNSAFE AIRCRAFT, shouldn’t THEY be the ones getting money too?

    /me adds FAA to list of hated governmental organizations (which includes the FDA and DHS).

  15. tripnman says:

    @psm321: True. Looks like my video camera and I will be headed to Jet Blue. Perhaps United would like to take my hard earned dollars? Oh, I know, let’s go to US Air and ask for some water.

    Southwest for the win?

  16. Bladefist says:

    @tripnman: Well you fine them. Fining them increases their costs, and puts stress on them, because they have to deliver the bad news to the customer. Fining them an absurd amount, is, absurd.

    @psm321: It’s my belief that when one airline raises prices, other airlines, offering similar flight plans, raise theirs a little too.

    If AA can fly you from KC to NY for 449$, then United is going to bump theirs up to $445

  17. AD8BC says:

    @Ein2015: I’ve often wondered about that. At least the gummint wouldn’t get the money.

  18. ViperBorg says:

    @tripnman: Midwest? Anyone? Anyone?
    Except for this: [consumerist.com]
    Midwest seems to be all right.
    Example 1: [consumerist.com]
    Example 2: [consumerist.com]
    Never mind that JetBlue was in second for the customer service throne. But, considering they can’t train their own people about what is a “permitted device”, customer service doesn’t mean crap right now with them.

    And come on… you gotta love those freshly baked cookies Midwest gives you.

  19. Triborough says:

    So where does the money go into a giant black government hole somewhere?

    Somewhat unrelated, a very freaky American Airlines ad from 1998. The end will freak you out a bit.

  20. tripnman says:

    @ViperBorg: Have to admit that I’ve not had the pleasure of flying Midwest. Usually because I’m traveling 35K feet OVER the midwest from one coast to the other. If I ever have to go somewhere in the middle, I’ll check them out.

  21. ViperBorg says:

    @tripnman: I hope you do. They are the only airline I actually suggest people fly.

  22. psm321 says:

    @Bladefist: then that’s anti-trust violations and should be pursued separately

  23. axiomatic says:

    How about we turn that 7.1 million towards REPAIRING WHATEVER THE FAA WAS WORRIED ABOUT IN THE SAFETY INSPECTIONS?!?!?!

    I mean WTF… seriously.

    I’m all for the FAA regulating their industry. But the airlines are hurting enough already without a penalty that could eat in to the money AA is actually using to repair said planes.

  24. picardia says:

    @psm321: Yeah, exactly.

    I mean, if you don’t fine them enough for it to matter, then the airline doesn’t give a damn and never drug-tests the employees. What’s the alternative? Jailing the executives? I could actually go for that, but doubt it would ever ever happen.

  25. Quilt says:

    The airlines industry is kind of funny. I don’t know what kind of funny, or why it’s funny…but somehow it makes me laugh.

  26. I find all this news to be simply fabulous in anticipation of my flight on American Airlines on Monday. But at the time of booking, how could I argue with choosing them? They were $100 cheaper per ticket than every other airline!

  27. plural_of_moose says:

    @axiomatic: Well, if the FAA told them to spend 7.1 million dollars on repairs, on their own planes by their own mechanics, what do you think would actually get done? The janitor would punch timecards for 10 hour days on the weekend (overtime pay, to show they’re “taking it seriously” and to burn that debt) to get the FAA off their asses about doing the repairs.

    The airlines are hurting because of a perfect storm of no planning, crap service, and customers finally reaching a breaking point. Skimping or delaying repairs is a perfect way to have a wing or something vital fall off when they try to get “just one more flight” in before maintenance, and then think about the lawsuits.

    However you feel about the judicial system and lawsuits in general, 200 odd passengers’ families suing AA for cutting corners on delayed maintenance and killing their loved ones is going to be a very nasty series of verdicts or settlements. Cost cutting that leads to deaths generally makes normal people (jury members) mad (= punitive damages, and 12 people with a temper, a pen and paper, and the power to decide how bad to financially punish AA could get rather vindictive) which can lead to big verdicts (which have to be appealed= more legal costs) or absorbed (sorry shareholders, we’re even more in the red because we got sued. Please don’t fire us- Love, the Board).
    I think in this case, it’s possible that the FAA might have actually saved AA money, long term

  28. JDAC says:

    On a semi-related note, does anyone else find AA’s tagline creepy? “We know why you fly”.

    “You just murdered your wife and need to get from Los Angeles to Buenos Aires with no layovers.

    American Airlines: We know why you fly”.

  29. Snarkysnake says:

    This should scare the crap out of everyone that flies this airline. Deferred maintenence ! Deferred maintenence,dammit ! They didn’t fine them for cold coffee or rude service. Aircraft maintenence shouldn’t suffer because the damn airline is hurting for money.This should be front page news in every paper in this country and I haven’t seen it anywhere but here and in their hometown newspaper.This looks like the accountants have decided that it will be cheaper to pay off a few families than keep the fleet up to snuff.

  30. axiomatic says:

    @Snarkysnake: AGREED! Well said.

  31. lingum says:

    This is all just a farce anyway. The government will hand this cash right back to them on the next multi-billion dollar bailout of the airline industry.

    They should just let the airlines that cannot hack it fail. Businesses fail every day for mismanagement and many other reasons. Are we going to have a government bailout of Best Buy, Circuit City, and Radio Shack??

  32. TecmoTech says:

    @lingum:

    This country is pretty big. We kind of need airlines to not fail. If you shut down all the crummy airlines, what are you left with? Two, maybe three airlines? Ticket prices will increase because air travel will not be a scarce commodity. You won’t be able to fly across the country to see your family anymore for less than $5,000.

    What would we do, seriously?

  33. lingum says:

    @TecmoTech: When last I looked, there’s a network of paved roads around this country. Cars and buses ride on these.

    There are train tracks all over this nation. I hear trains ride on them as well.

    If there are 2-3 airlines, so what? If you want to fly, they will be there. If you don’t, hop a bus, train, or drive. There is no inherent right to fly.

    They have boats if you need to cross water.

    The government should not be in the business or making sure faulty business models continue to exist at taxpayer expense.

    I’ll say it again, businesses fail. It’s the natural course of the business world.

  34. Brent says:

    Great. I’m flying out of California tomorrow on A.A. I wish I’d read this before booking my flight.

  35. Nighthawke says:

    Southwest FTW. They took their fines on their chins and moved on, no appeal.
    Their fines were mostly politically motivated anyway.

    Look at AA and how they are behaving even after breaking all those regs. Like 5 year old spoiled rotten BRATS.
    Take it on the chin like an adult, swallow your pride, fix your little problem and MOVE ON!

  36. TecmoTech says:

    @lingum:

    Good one. Business trip from LA to NY takes three days ONE WAY. Really efficient idea there. Might as well hop on the Mayflower to go to Hawaii while I’m at it.

  37. BytheSea says:

    Airlines vs govn’t – really hard to tell who’s being evil. Can they both be at once?

  38. tenio says:

    @TecmoTech: lol!

    i always wondered if they could make an amtrak (gov’t owned) airline…but then again this country can’t seem to keep its own budget in the black, i doubt it could make a cost-effective airline

  39. RStewie says:

    @tripnman: “Here, take this with you!” LOL! Pre-911 commercials are such a delightful window to a happier time!

    But I’m all for avoiding AA. Like the plague.

  40. RStewie says:

    @Triborough: OOPS. That was for you…