Report blasts Southwest Airlines for failing to prioritize safety

A government report obtained by the Wall Street Journal blasts Southwest Airlines for failing to prioritize safety.

The report also says the Federal Aviation Administration failed to hold the airline accountable.

An aviation safety consultant said the problem all comes down to money.

He said all the airlines get caught at one time or another, flying planes with unresolved issues, because if they fixed them immediately, they would have to ground flights.

“99 percent of the time, this stuff doesn’t mean much. 1 percent it does, and it’s a problem,” said Denny Kelly, who is a retired airline pilot and aviation safety consultant.

Kelly said Southwest Airlines is under a lot of pressure not to have to ground flights for maintenance issues.

“They cannot afford to ground more planes,” he said.

Southwest is the largest U.S. customer of the 737 Max, which has been grounded for nearly a year.

Kelly said that could be one of the factors that led to the airline flying aircrafts with "unresolved safety concerns," according to the draft report by the Inspector General, obtained by the Wall Street Journal.

“That could lead to, let’s put this off, not do it August 1, let’s do it September 1,” Kelly explained.

A Southwest Airlines plane (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The draft report goes on to chastise FAA managers in the Dallas office for failing to adequately confront the airline's mentality about safety issues.

A spokesman for the FAA said the agency would respond directly to the Office of the Inspector General.

“Until the airlines put the money into fixing, or FAA has enough people to catch these things constantly, which costs money for the federal government, it’s not going to change,” Kelly added.

Southwest Airlines said in a statement that the issues resulted from improper classification of repairs on 88 used aircraft it purchased, due to differences in "language and repair criteria."

The statement also said: "Safety of our operation is the most important thing we do. We are considered one of the world’s most admired companies and uphold an unprecedented safety record."

“Well, if their primary interest is safety, why does this stuff come up? A lot of this stuff, well, you may say it’s not that big of deal, don’t inspect things not going to affect safety of plane, how do you know that?” Kelly added.

Kelly added that the customer’s demand for lower fares is part of the issue.

“They want to be safe, but they want a good price on their ticket. If Southwest does everything immediately that they are supposed to do, prices of tickets are going to go up,” he explained.