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American Airlines Inspecting Planes for Loose Seats After Second Incident in Three Days

"These things can kill an airline."

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 27: An American Airlines plane is seen at John F. Kennedy International Airport April 27, 2012 in the Queens borough of New York City.Credit: Getty Images

DALLAS (AP) -- The federal government is investigating two separate incidents in which rows of passenger seats came loose on American Airlines planes in the last 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 there could be a problem with the way the seats fit into tracks on the floor.

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.

Huguely said the incidents involved separate repair facilities and groups of workers.

Airline and government officials discouraged speculation that the incidents could be related to labor-management tension at American, which is cutting labor 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 canceled flights. The airline threatened to take the pilots' union to court.

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 travelers perceive maintenance to be lax, "passengers will start booking away from American Airlines in droves. This is very serious stuff. You need to get corporate security involved."

 

Front page photo from Getty Images.

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