American Airlines Hit With Record-Setting $24 Million Fine

Back in February, we wrote that American Airlines could be on the hook for up to $20 million over allegations the airlines made thousands of flights in jets containing potentially dangerous wiring. But the FAA went even farther than that figure, announcing today that it plans to fine American $24.2 million, more than double the amount of the previous record fine.

According to the FAA , American did not fully comply with a 2006 directive to upgrade the wiring in the compartment where the main landing gear is stored in its fleet of MD-80 jets. As a result, regulators say the airline flew 14,278 times on planes with wiring that wasn’t up to snuff.

Says DOT Secretary Ray LaHood:

We put rules and regulations in place to keep the flying public safe… We expect operators to perform inspections and conduct regular and required maintenance in order to prevent safety issues. There can be no compromises when it comes to safety.

American now has 30 days to respond to the charges. In the meantime, a rep for the company did release this statement:

These events happened more than two years ago, and we believe this action is unwarranted… We are confident we have a strong case and the facts will bear this out … American Airlines has always maintained its aircraft to the highest standards, and we continue to do so.

Even if AA is able to knock a few Ms of this fine, it will almost certainly end up as one for the record books. The highest fine ever collected by the FAA was against Southwest Airlines in 2008. The airline ended up haggling down their original $10.2 million penalty to $7.5 million.

In 1987, the FAA attempted to collect $9.5 million from Eastern Airlines (wow, memory lane!) but was only able to wrest $1 million from the airline’s cold, dead hands.

FAA fines American Airlines $24M for safety lapses [USA Today]

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.