How Would You Penalize The Airlines For Safety Violations?

Yesterday, when we posted about the record-setting $24 million penalty the FAA gave to American Airlines over allegations the carrier flew thousands of flights in planes with potentially dangerous wiring, some Consumerist readers expressed the sentiment that the massive fine was either ineffective in properly punishing AA or that it did little to make air travel better for passengers.

Perhaps the most common comment on this news was the belief that the penalty will ultimately just be passed on to the customer in the form of higher airfares and additional fees.

Also along these lines, some pointed out that when the $24 million is divided among the 14,278 flights in question, it comes out to a penalty of less than $1,700/flight. Divided again among the number of passengers on each flight and and that fine only comes out to somewhere between $10-$35/passenger. That’s a far cry from the $27,500/passenger fines airlines could face just for sitting on the tarmac for more than three hours.

If the money doesn’t go back to the passengers on those planes, and the airline is just going to recoup the $24 million from other travelers, there must be a better way for the FAA to penalize airlines for safety violations, yes?

A commenter with the uncomplicated name of Ed wrote, “They need to hit them where it hurts. Don’t make them pay fines. Make them give us 2 inches more of legroom or deny them access to certain routes for a period of time.”

Meanwhile, Your New Nemesis dreamily suggested: “How about instead of fining just the corporation, we impose legal and financial hardship on the highest level executives responsible for any infractions like this. So, airline doesn’t update it’s wiring, then who-ever said ‘no, don’t fix it, they’re fine’ gets fined personally, and sees some jail time.”

Now here’s your chance in the comments to be creative (don’t let things like “laws” hamper your pipe dream) and tell us how you’d punish Airlines — or really any huge business that screws up big time — in a way that couldn’t easily be passed on to the consumers and, heaven forbid, might actually benefit them.