Southwest Airlines is being sued by the Justice Department in federal district court in Washington State after a settlement could not be reached with the carrier.
The airline carrier is accused of doing repairs on planes that did not meet safety standards. The FAA investigated 44 Southwest-operated Boeing 737 aircraft serviced by Aviation Technical Services Inc, an aircraft repair firm, between 2006 and 2009 and found that they were improperly maintained, according to court documents obtained by Reuters.
The main motive of the lawsuit is to enforce $12 million in civil penalties, which is the same amount that the Federal Aviation Administration publicized in late July. As per the government, the contractor has not followed the proper procedures. Southwest spokeswoman Brandy King says the company has disputed the allegations.
“We dispute the FAA’s allegations and look forward to the opportunity to vigorously defend Southwest’s record in a court of law.”
While Southwest Airlines is being sued, it has been said that it is the second time that the FAA has sought such a high penalty against an airline. It is behind only a $24.2 million case against American Airlines. Generally, airlines do negotiate with the FAA with regard to the penalties.
In 2008, the FAA levied $10.2 million in penalties on Southwest and in 2009 the case was settled for $7.5 million, according to The Wall Street Journal. In the current case, the FAA alleged that the Aviation Technical Services workers under the airline’s supervision has put sealant under the new skin panels but they have not added all the rivets fast enough for the sealant to be most effective. This aspect can generate gaps for moisture to enter and cause corrosion.
The Southwest Airlines lawsuit comes one day after the airline hosted a wedding at 32,000 feet. It seems the carrier can’t sway bad publicity, as the Justice Department filed the suit the very next day. But some financial analysts don’t see this case going any further, and it’s possible that a settlement might be reached before it goes to court.
In 2009, Southwest sent back the planes to the service and kept some of them for flying purposes. The flying procedure continued even after the months of the FAA warning to the airline of the improper repairs and later, the regulators approved the repairs.
As Southwest Airlines is sued, the FAA alleges that the carrier failed to properly install a ground wire on water drain masts on two of its aircraft as required by the FAA Airworthiness Directive regarding lightning strikes, The Consumerist notes. The airplanes were each operated on more than 20 passenger flights after Southwest Airlines became aware of the discrepancies but before the airline corrected the problem.