Lapses in safety controls might not seem like the sort of thing that could cause material financial problems for a company … right up until the airline industry strands hundreds of thousands of people across the country while it catches up on safety inspections. Then you start wondering how much all this is going to cost.

Nobody yet knows exactly how much last week’s transportation fiasco will nick the airlines. In addition to the cost of feeding, lodging, and rebooking passengers, the airlines were stuck paying overtime costs to have employees inspect aircraft for faulty wiring. Ensuing bad publicity certainly won’t ...