Regulators Gone Wild: FAA Fines Frontier $380K for Safety Card Glitch

Last Updated Apr 16, 2010 6:51 AM EDT

There's been plenty of criticism of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in recent years, along the that the agency has gotten too buddy-buddy with the airlines. Recently, the FAA has stepped up, throwing fines out left and right in order to show the airlines who's boss. Now I'm starting to wonder if they're getting a little too fine-happy. This latest penalty against Frontier seems excessive.

The FAA is fining Frontier $380,000 for having the wrong placard depicting the exit. Did this placard give bad instructions on how to open the door? Nope. It just showed a different configuration for the seats in the exit row. Maybe a visual will help. As you can see, there is one exit over the wings on this A319. Before, they had all rows of three with the exit row having a ton of legroom so that people could access the exit. In the new version, they simply moved up the exit row to give it the same legroom as the rest, but they removed the window seat, giving enough space to open the exit if need be. When they made this change, Frontier failed to change the placard showing the exit seating locations.

Now, does this matter? Technically, yes. But in reality, no, I don't think so. In the old version, row 10 was the row with all the extra legroom. You needed to go to row 10 to exit the plane. In the new version, row 10 is the row of two seats, so you can still use that row to exit the plane. People just wouldn't have known that you could get there from row 11 as well, but in real life, they (obviously) would have figured it out.

To me, this $380,000 fine seems excessive for something that really doesn't have a huge impact on safety. It sounds like the FAA is simply trying to make a statement that they aren't going to be playing nice anymore. Airlines beware.

[Photo via Flickr user James_Cridland]