Based on the results of a recent audit, Southwest Airlines and the FAA may have some explaining to do.
According to a government report, the FAA was lax in its oversight of Southwest Airlines. The report also offered harsh criticism of the airline itself.
The Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Transportation revealed the details of the audit on its website. According to them, the FAA has not “effectively overseen Southwest Airlines’ systems for managing safety risks.
According to their report, they say that Southwest Airlines “regularly and frequently communicated incorrect aircraft weight and balance data to its pilots.” They also said that the airline “operates aircraft in an unknown airworthiness state,” which they say put “17.2 million passengers at risk.”
In a statement to Fox News, a spokesperson for Southwest Airlines said, "Southwest maintains a culture of compliance, recognizing the Safety of our operation as the most important thing we do. We are considered one of the world’s most admired companies and uphold an unprecedented safety record. The success of our business depends, in and of itself, on the Safety of our operation, and while we work to improve each and every day, any implication that we would tolerate a relaxing of standards is absolutely unfounded."
The statement continued, “The success of our business depends, in and of itself, on the Safety of our operation," King added, "and while we work to improve each and every day, any implication that we would tolerate a relaxing of standards is absolutely unfounded."
The report also said that the FAA “accepted the air carrier’s justification that the issues identified were low safety risks.” Also, the FAA reportedly has not provided their inspectors with proper guidance on reviewing risk assessments or Southwest’s safety culture. According to the report, “As a result, (the) FAA cannot provide assurance that the carrier operates at the highest degree of safety in the public’s interest, as required by law.”
A spokesperson for Southwest told Fox News that after reviewing the report, they "adamantly disagree" with the "unsubstantiated references to Southwest's Safety Culture."
They continued, "Within the Audit, the OIG also takes a closer look at a few operational challenges that we’ve focused on during the last year—specifically our Weight & Balance program and conformity work on pre-owned aircraft. The OIG data collection for the audit concluded last fall and since that time, we are proud to say that we’ve made significant progress on these two primary operational items mentioned in the report."
They continued to explain that each of their 88 pre-owned aircraft cited in the report have either recently completed a comprehensive head-to-tail inspection or are still in the inspection phase.
The statement concluded, "Our friends, our families board our aircraft and not a single one of us would put anything above their safety – this mission unites us all."