American's Safety Violations: Should We Be Worried?

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) told the American Airlines bankruptcy court that it might seek penalties of up to $156.5 million for safety breaches, reports USA Today.

Certainly, any safety breaches serious enough to warrant big fines are potentially troublesome to travelers. But the FAA didn't specify any of the individual claims, so nobody can tell exactly how serious they might be. And for now, that $156.5 million figure is something of a place marker, filed in advance of the pending cutoff date for claims filing, to make sure that the FAA can remain in on the action as the case proceeds.

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Potential passengers should take some comfort in the fact that many safety fines are based on paperwork problems rather than actual physical problems, and that they are often negotiated down to low levels as long as an airline promises to take corrective action. Regardless of the bankruptcy provisions, the FAA would have grounded the airline or some of its planes rather than assess fines had the safety violations been truly critical.

American's current and potential passengers should certainly be aware of the problem, but they should also note that the FAA issued only notices of future fines rather than calls for immediate action.

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