Airline inspecting jets for loose seats
Tue, 02 Oct 2012 6:24p.m.
By David Koenig
The US government is examining two separate incidents in which passenger seats came loose midflight on American Airlines planes in the past three days.
American said Monday that it would inspect those and six other Boeing 757 jets overnight.
The Federal Aviation Administration said both planes had recently undergone maintenance work that required seats to be removed and reinstalled. American spokeswoman Andrea Huguely said an initial review found that there could be a problem with the way the seats fit into tracks on the floor.
"Out of an abundance of caution, American has decided to proactively re-inspect eight 757s today that could possibly have this same issue," Huguely said. The FAA said it is looking into the incidents but didn't provide many more details.
Boeing Co declined to comment other than to say it had nothing to do with the recent maintenance work involving seats.
On Saturday, a flight from Boston to Miami made an emergency landing in New York after three passenger seats came loose shortly after takeoff. The airline said there were no injuries, and passengers were put on another plane to Miami.
On Monday, an American flight from New York to Miami returned to John F Kennedy International Airport after loose seats were discovered.
The incidents involved separate repair facilities and groups of American Airlines and contract workers, Huguely said. American flew engineers, crew chiefs and inspectors from its maintenance base in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to New York to examine the planes, she said.
American had 124 Boeing 757s as of December. The eight being inspected use a similar seat assembly, officials said.
The 757s that American operates in the United States have 22 first-class seats and 166 in economy.
Airline and government officials discouraged speculation that the incidents could be related to labour-management tension at American, which is cutting labour costs and laying off maintenance workers as it tries to turn around under bankruptcy protection.
Last week American accused some pilots of conducting an illegal work slowdown that has led to a spike in delayed and cancelled flights. The airline threatened to take the pilots' union to court.
On Monday, American continued to have more cancellations and delays than its rivals, according to tracking service FlightStats.com. But American's 17 cancellations and 61 percent on-time rating for arrivals were better than many of the airline's performances in September.
The delays and cancellations have annoyed passengers, but even the hint of mechanical issues could frighten them away and even threaten American's existence, experts said.
"These things can kill an airline," said George Hobica, founder of travel website airfarewatchdog.com. "With a delay or cancellation, you're sitting on the ground. [With loose seats] if the plane hits turbulence, people go flying."
Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst in San Francisco, said that if travellers perceive maintenance to be lax, "passengers will start booking away from American Airlines in droves. This is very serious stuff."
FAA officials said they have stepped up scrutiny of American as they do with all airlines operating in bankruptcy protection. American and parent AMR Corp filed for bankruptcy in November.
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2/10/2012 10:58:55 p.m.
Robert W wrote:
My wife and i have been travelling frequently between New Zealand and South East Asia since 1999. We now reside in the Philippines. Our airline of choice has mostly been Singapore Airlines or their afilliated partners,eg, Silk Air, Air New Zealand.
About broken seats, in 2009 i travelled from Singapore to Christchurch. Because im tallish and at that time i was 69yo
i asked for a seat with leg room which i was given. This was Singapore Airlines Boeing 777.
Unfortunately for me the back rest on the seat was broken which meant the seat was unable to be placed in the upright position. I protested to the crew about it, who offered me another seat in the middle of others of course with no leg room. I was forced to accept the alternative seat for taking off,( Singapore,and landing,Christchurch).
Consequently i experienced a very uncomfortable journey. I complained in writing to Singapore Airlines who couldnt care less. I believed i was entitled to some small compensation, for my 10 hours of discomfort, unfortunately nothing was forthcoming.
Im older now, this is not an experience i would care to repeat.
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