United Airlines Operated Aircraft That Wasn’t Airworthy 23 Times In 2014: FAA Hints At $435,000 Fine

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has hinted at imposing a $435,000 fine on troubled U.S. carrier United Airlines after it was revealed that the airline skimped on safety regulations three years ago. According to a CNBC report, the FAA decided to fine the airline for nearly half a million dollars after it was revealed that it flew a plane that was not in an “airworthy condition” for 23 flights.

The incident dates back to 2014 when the aircraft in question was operated for a long duration without following mandatory safety protocols. At the center of the controversy is a Boeing 787 Dreamliner that apparently had an issue with its fuel pump as reported by the crew on June 7, 2014. Two days later, on June 9, in response to the crew’s complaint, United Airlines mechanics replaced the part. However, instead of performing a required inspection of the part by engineers – a standard procedure as mandated by FAA guidelines – United Airlines put the aircraft back in service immediately. The inspection was not conducted for the next 23 flights during which the aircraft spent hundreds of hours in the air and traveled thousands of miles – putting the lives of thousands of passengers at risk.

According to the FAA, the plane traveled on several national and international routes before the mandatory inspection was finally carried out on June 28, 2014. What is even more shocking was the fact that the FAA was aware of the fact that United had skipped performing the inspection and had even warned them about it. However, the airline operated two more flights using the same aircraft after that warning was issued. Even though United did not perform the mandatory inspection, the aircraft performed normally during all the 23 flights. The FAA has subsequently asked officials from the airlines meet and discuss the case.

The aircraft involved in the 2014 incident was a Boeing 787 Dreamliner similar to this one [Image by Mic Smith/AP Images]

Responding to the incident, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta issued a statement that read the following.

“Maintaining the highest levels of safety depends on operators closely following all applicable rules and regulations. Failing to do so can create unsafe conditions.”

The incident has come out in the open nearly three years after it happened, and now the FAA has proposed a $435,000 fine on United Airlines. United Airlines on its part responded to the new development and issued a standard response through one of its spokespersons Charles Hobart which read the following.

“At United, the safety of our customers and employees is our top priority. We immediately took action after identifying the issue and are working closely with the FAA in their review.”

This latest report about United Airlines compromising on mandatory safety rules could further damage the company’s reputation that has been on a downward spiral since April this year.

The one incident that earned the company a lot of bad press was the way in which aircraft staff violently dragged off a passenger, later identified as Dr. David Dao, for refusing to give up his seat on an overbooked flight. The video that showed United security staff dragging bloodied man out of the aircraft went viral and drew a sharp response from the public and the airline industry in general. The airline subsequently apologized to Dr. Dao and reached an out of court settlement with him. A few weeks later, the airline was once again in the news after a pet rabbit was found dead after it flew with United.

More recently, the airline was in the news after its president, Scott Kirby, hinted in an internal town hall meeting that if passengers felt uncomfortable traveling economy, it was their own fault. Kirby was quoted saying the following.

“Seat pitch has come down because that’s what customers voted with their wallets that they wanted. I know everyone would tell you, ‘I would like more seat pitch.’ But the history in the airline industry is every time airlines put more seat pitch on, customers choose the lowest price.”

Do you feel comfortable flying United Airlines now that you know that they had compromised on safety regulations two years ago?

[Featured Image by Julio Cortez/AP Images]

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