FAA Once Again Fines Southwest Airlines For Maintenance Related Violations

For the second time in the last 12 months, Southwest Airlines is facing another fine from the Federal Aviation Administration because of safety issues; this time totaling $328,550.

The Dallas Morning News reports that the latest fine covers two 2013 instances in which the FAA claims Southwest violated federal aviation regulations.

The first case – which received a penalty of $265,800 – involved a plane that lost cabin pressure during a flight from Boston to St. Louis in May 2013.

The FAA alleges that mechanics for the airline failed to do a mandatory inspection for damage and to ensure the depleted oxygen bottles were replaced after the flight landed. Despite this failure, the FAA claims Southwest operated the plane on 123 flights before completing the inspection on June 3.

“Additionally, the airline allegedly operated the aircraft on May 14 and 15 flights with two of the four portable oxygen units unserviceable,” the FAA claims. “A minimum of three were required under the conditions of Southwest’s Minimum Equipment List (MEL).”

In the second case, the FAA alleges that mechanics improperly deferred repairs and failed to log issues regarding air leaking from an air conditioning unit on one of Southwests’ AirTran Airways planes.

The incident stemmed from a report from a pilot who had operated the flight and saw ice and water coming from the plane’s galley vent.

According to the FAA, over the next few weeks, the plane remained in service while maintenance technicians replaced several components in an attempt to correct the issue. However, those attempts did not follow the FAA-approved maintenance procedures.

The FAA said in a statement that Southwest has requested a meeting with the agency to discuss each case.

For its part, a spokesperson for Southwest tells The Dallas Morning News that issues only concerned two specific planes and that both were repaired appropriately upon discovery.

“These items were fully resolved some time ago and are not currently an issue for aircraft being operated by Southwest Airlines,” the spokesperson said. “We are committed to continuous enhancements to our internal maintenance procedures, with a focus on Safety in all aspects of our operations. We make every effort to ensure that our fleet is maintained in accordance with applicable regulations and is aligned with best practices in the industry.”

The proposed fine is just the latest safety and maintenance related obstacle Southwest has faced in the last year.

Back in February, the airline had to cancel dozens of flights after learning that one-fifth of its entire fleet was overdue for necessary maintenance checks. In all, the airline had to ground 128 planes pending inspection, but reached a deal with the FAA that allowed the jets to continue flying.

The airline is also currently battling the FAA on a $12 million fine related to improper repairs going back as far as 2006. When the fine was first reported in January 2014, FAA investigates said they found three separate incidents in which Southwest and its hired contractor improperly repaired aircraft.

Southwest refused to pay the fine, and in November the U.S. government filed a lawsuit seeking the payment. That case is still pending.

Southwest Airlines faces $328,550 in additional fines from Federal Aviation Administration [The Dallas Morning News]

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