How Southwest Airlines keeps fares low

Southwest Airlines pays people to get the FAA to avoid safety inspections on their planes and passes the savings on to their customers. I dislike government regulation because corporations being regulated quickly learn to schmooze regulators and regulators, being government employees, have no incentive to do a good job due to small and rare pay raises and job promotions, are easy prey. But given that a failure in an airplane causes many deaths, the FAA is a regulatory agency that I like. That is, until I hear that “the FAA works with the airlines and against safety”:http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/04/business/04plane.html?ex=1365048000&en=3d8a1a9e7465655d&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss.

The safety guy in the FAA, Nicholas Sabatini, brushes off safety problems with progress made by the airlines and the manufacturers:

bq. Mr. Sabatini repeatedly cited statistics showing progress in aviation safety, saying the rate of fatal accidents had dropped by more than 60 percent in the 10 years ended Sept. 30, 2007.

He’s happy with 40% as many fatalities as a decade ago and thinks that’s an excuse to ignore safety concerns. I wonder if the rate would have dropped by more than 60% if he had been doing his job. He should be fired, but he won’t be:

bq. One committee member, Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Texas Democrat, asked Mr. Sabatini if the manager who had told Southwest to keep flying was still being paid. “Yes, ma'am,” he replied.

bq. “What do you have to do to get fired, then?” she asked.

Bush should be awarding several FAA officials medals of honor any day now.

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