American Airlines faces $156.5 million in potential government fines for maintenance problems on a variety of planes, according to a Federal Aviation Administration filing in the parent company's bankruptcy case.
The parent company, AMR, also potentially faces a nearly $5.3 million fine against American Eagle Airlines, a $629,500 fine against Executive Airlines and a $17,875 fine against Eagle Aviation Services, according to FAA claims in the case.
If the fines were imposed, they would dwarf the previous record of $24.2 million, which was also imposed against American in 2010 for maintenance problems that grounded its fleet of MD-80s. But FAA fines are routinely negotiated lower, and the $24.2 million fine is still in the midst of negotiations.
The largest single fine spelled out in court documents in the most recent filing is $39.3 million against American for allegedly failing to fix wiring on its Boeing 757 aircraft in 2009. The FAA said that before the jets were inspected and repaired, American used 113 of them to make 1,480 flights carrying passengers.
The filings indicate an ongoing concern over American's maintenance operations. For the sake of comparison, the total amount in fines that the FAA has collected from all airlines since 2005 totals $22.4 million.
Government agencies had to file potential claims against AMR by July 16, and the FAA claims were filed July 12. The agency said in a statement that the claim was filed to protect U.S. taxpayers.
"The documents detail both proposed and potential civil penalties in connection with ongoing enforcement cases involving both American Airlines and American Eagle," the FAA said in a statement. "Because these cases remain open, the FAA cannot discuss the details of the individual investigations."
Michael Trevino, an American spokesman, said the airline has worked closely with the FAA to enhance its quality and compliance with federal regulations. He says the airline made voluntary investments in more than 70 projects.
He says the company continues to discuss the alleged violations with the FAA and possible ways to resolve the complaints consensually.
"Safety is fundamental to the success of American Airlines, and at no time did American operate an aircraft that was unsafe for flight," Trevino said. "Nothing is more important than the safety of our customers, our people and our planes."
US Airways, which has pressed for a merger with American while it remains in bankruptcy reorganization, had no comment on whether the potential fines would alter its plans.
Contributing: The Associated Press