American Airlines identifies loose-seat problem - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

American Airlines identifies loose-seat problem

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American Airlines is in the hot seat after improperly installed clamps caused rows of seats to come loose during three flights.

On Tuesday afternoon travelers at ABIA prepared to board their flights with a bit of hesitancy.

"It makes me a little nervous. Start thinking about maybe should I transfer to Continental or another airline," said American Airlines customer Len Karabin.

Within the past week, rows of seats have come loose on three separate American Airlines flights, two of which resulted in emergency landings. The federal aviation administration is now investigating.

"That's not really that complicated," said Ron Barthol. "If they can't get that right, are they going to get the things that are complicated correct?"

According to the airlines, the root cause is an improperly installed clamp. The clamps were used on 47 of the airline's 102 Boeing 757 planes. All 47 are now being evaluated.

"I think way too often airlines are cutting back on their maintenance programs. I don't think they should be doing that. So yes, that would be very alarming to me," Barthol said.

Since filing for bankruptcy last fall, American Airlines has laid off thousands of maintenance workers.

"American regrets the inconvenience that this maintenance issue may have caused customers on affected flights. Safety is - and always will be - American's top concern," said American Airlines Spokeswoman Andrea Huguely.

The airline created a special page on its website for cancellations and delays.

The company is allowing travelers impacted by the situation stand by for earlier domestic flights. If a flight is delayed more than two hours, the company will offer customers a full refund if they decide not to travel, re-accommodate them on another carrier or change American flight plans at no charge. Travelers may also submit a request for compensation.

Faithful customers don't feel that will be necessary.

"I figure a loose seat's not going to make the plane crash," said American Airlines passenger John Doolittle.

"I travel about 50,000 miles a year for work. I fly a lot. I want to make sure I fly an airline that's safe and doesn't have any issues," said Karabin.

Those in the travel industry feel the airlines will be most accommodating because of this issue. So if you want out of a flight now's your best chance.

The following statement was sent to FOX 7 News:

"Overnight, a group of engineers, tech crew chiefs and inspectors from American's Tulsa Maintenance Base evaluated airplanes at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport while other airplanes were inspected at other facilities around the country. Originally, American planned to evaluate the seats on eight Boeing 757 airplanes, but out of an abundance of caution, the decision was made to proactively evaluate a total of 47 Boeing 757 airplanes that have the same model Main Cabin seats with a common locking mechanism. Thirty-six airplanes were evaluated by maintenance personnel overnight and another 11 airplanes will be evaluated to finish the inspection.

American's internal investigation has focused on one of three types of Main Cabin seats on the 757s and how the rows of these three seats fit into the track that is used to secure the rows to the floor of the airplanes. Our maintenance and engineering teams have discovered that the root cause is a saddle clamp improperly installed on the foot of the row leg. These clamps were used on only 47 of our 102 Boeing 757 airplanes.

The issue does not seem to be tied to any one maintenance facility or one workgroup.

The FAA is aware of our internal review and its findings, as well as the steps we are taking to proactively address the issue. We continue to work closely with the FAA.

American regrets the inconvenience that this maintenance issue may have caused customers on affected flights. Safety is - and always will be - American's top concern." - American Airlines spokeswoman Andrea Huguely

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