Thursday, April 10, 2008

Risk Update – Airline Safety

***4-10-08 UPDATE: MIDWEST AIRLINES ALSO FLIES MD80. As of October 2007, they had 15MD-80s (13 MD80s at the beginning of 2007 with two additional MD80s purchased in June and July 2007, according to the 10Q page 26).***

Avoid Booking Flights On MD80
Following up on my previous article on this topic, the FAA is now (finally) auditing the airline carriers to ensure that they have carried out the necessary inspection and maintenance called for in the FAA Airworthiness Directive (AD) for MD-80, effective September 5, 2006. All airline carriers flying the MD80 series planes had 18 months to comply with the directive. However, it seems that American Airline had not been fully compliant with the directive as they are canceling more flights on MD80 planes. It is a sad and disturbing testament that airline companies will only comply with FAA safety directives only with the threat of FAA audit and enforcement.

Those customers who have had flights cancelled should be outraged for two reasons:

  1. Their travel plans have been severely disrupted by American pulling MD80s out of service for inspection that should have been already done.
  2. Had they flown, their lives may have been in jeopardy since the FAA AD for the MD80s is a very serious one; one that can potentially cause the plane to explode.
How can you avoid flying MD80s? Before you book the flight, look for the plane that the particular airline carrier is flying for the flight. Most online travel service will identify the plane type. If you have already booked your flight, look at your flight confirmation / ticket for the information. If it not available, then you can go to a site like Travelocity’s Flight Status to check on the plane type assigned for your flight and also to check to see if your flight is on time or delayed.

Or, better yet, avoid booking flights on carriers flying MD80s until all MD80s have passed their mandatory inspections. U.S. carriers flying MD80s are: American, Delta, Northwest, and Allegiant airlines. Two major international carriers flying MD80s are Alitalia and SAS. (There are other international carriers flying MD80s, so check with your carrier for further information.)

The FAA audit of MD80 wiring inspection appears to be taking longer. USAToday is reporting that American Airline has yet to inspect 121 MD80s, which means that their flight disruptions can go into the summer months.

At this point, American Airline is losing more than money. It is losing money and customer loyalty; and rightly so. It is reprehensible for a company that is charged with ensuring safety of its passengers to willfully disobey a FAA AD that specifically called for proper inspections of wire bundles to prevent sparking a fuel explosion. They had 18 months to conduct the inspections and make the necessary maintenance from September 2006. By canceling flights now, well after the 18-month period, is an admission of guilt. As such, FAA should penalize American Airline for their greed and willful disregard for the safety of their passengers.

May your travels be safe and timely

Ed Kim

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