WASHINGTON – The Federal Aviation Administration proposed a $12 million fine Monday against Southwest Airlines for allegedly failing to comply with repair orders for Boeing 737 planes.
The case combines three earlier enforcement actions against the Dallas-based airline.
"Safety is our top priority, and that means holding airlines responsible for the repairs their contractors undertake," Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said. "Everyone has a role to play and a responsibility to ensure the safety of our transportation system."
FAA alleges that starting in 2006, the airline and its contractor, Aviation Technical Services, of Everett, Wash., failed to follow proper procedures for replacing fuselage skins on 44 aircraft.
In 2009, FAA notified the airline that it wasn't in compliance with regulations.
In the third case, the FAA alleges that Southwest failed to properly install a ground wire on water drain masts on two of its Boeing 737s in response to an FAA order about lightning strikes. The planes allegedly flew passengers on more than 20 flights before the airline corrected the problem, according to the FAA.
"The FAA views maintenance very seriously, and it will not hesitate to take action against companies that fail to follow regulations," FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said.
Southwest has 30 days to formally respond to FAA's civil-penalty letter. FAA often negotiates with airlines to reduce fines, and the largest disputes can last years.
Melanie Jones, a Southwest spokeswoman, said the FAA letter concerns repair issues that were addressed years ago and that none of the issues affects any aircraft currently being flown by Southwest. The airline is committed to continuously improving its repair vendors and will respond formally to the FAA, she said.
"Safety is paramount and we always strive for full compliance with established and approved processes and procedures," Jones said.