Fighting to stay in business after a May 11 crash that killed 110 people, ValuJet airlines agreed to ground its planes Monday after a federal investigation found “several serious deficiencies” in the low-cost carrier’s safety and maintenance operations.
“We asked them to cease operations and they agreed to do so,” Federal Aviation Administration chief David Hinson said.
Hinson said the FAA investigation, under way at the time of the crash of Flight 592 in the Florida Everglades and intensified afterward, found systemwide problems with maintenance and “multiple shortcomings” in dealing with contractors, who performed most of the airline’s repairs and maintenance.
The grounding is a devastating setback for the airline. Several industry analysts said the agreement probably means the Atlanta-based carrier has flown its last flight.
“This is a lethal blow, because it will shatter consumer confidence in the airline even if the FAA ever lets it fly again,” said George Ireland, a partner at D.M. Knott Limited Partners, a Denver investment firm that once owned ValuJet stock.
ValuJet called the action “grossly unfair” because it was unable to respond to the FAA concerns raised during the investigation. The airline said it hopes to resume service within 30 days.
ValuJet President Lewis Jordan said ValuJet will provide full refunds for customers with bookings for flights today and beyond.