FAA’s “Largest Fine Ever” Wasn’t So Large After All
Do you remember back in March of this year when the FAA issued a $10.2 million dollar fine against Southwest Airlines because Southwest failed to inspect 737’s for fatigue cracks? Shareholders have just filed a lawsuit against the airline alleging that the company abdicated its responsibility to properly inspect its aircraft. An interesting fact is presented in the lawsuit: The 46 aircraft Southwest didn’t inspect flew 61,242 flights.
Divide the $10.2 million dollar fine by the number of flights, and the FAA fined Southwest Airlines $166.56 dollars every time it flew a plane that hadn’t been inspected. That’s less than the cost of a single ticket on many of Southwest’s flights.
The real question is whether $166.56 is less than the cost of an inspection. I bet it is, considering the (justifiably) high wages of flight mechanics. Wouldn’t a more appropriate fine have been double, or perhaps triple the cost of the missed inspections? Or some other figure that wouldn’t have the effect of allowing Southwest Airlines to save money by skipping safety inspections?