Loose seats, other issues on American Airlines flights

AMERICAN AIRLINES

By the CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) — An American Airlines flight from Chicago to London made an unscheduled landing Tuesday at Shannon Airport in Ireland after a passenger reported a smoky odor, an airline spokesman said, in what is the latest in a series of woes for the airline.

American Airlines Flight 98, a Boeing 777-200 carrying 246 passengers and 14 crew members, was diverted as a precaution, airline spokesman Ian Bradley told CNN.

An inspection revealed that the odor was coming from an overhead fan that had overheated, he said.

Niall Maloney, head of operations for Shannon Airport, said such technical diversions are not uncommon.

The incident is the latest in a series involving American Airlines aircraft, including the discovery of loose seats on two jetliners that prompted an inspection of other aircraft in its fleet.

A Boeing 757 from Boston to Miami carrying 175 passengers diverted to New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport on Saturday when three seats in row 12 came loose shortly after takeoff. A second American Boeing 757 returned to JFK on Monday morning after a similar seat issue was discovered.

The Federal Aviation Authority said it was looking into both incidents.

The airline’s initial inspection of each aircraft found other rows of seats that were not properly secured, it said in a statement.

“Preliminary information indicates that both aircraft had recently undergone maintenance during which the seats had been removed and re-installed,” the FAA said. “Including these two airplanes, the airline has taken eight aircraft with similar seat assemblies out of service until they can be inspected.”

The airline has also been beset by labor troubles, delays and flight cancellations.

American, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection late last year, persuaded a judge to throw out its contract with the pilots union last month.

Since then, the pilots have been engaging in what the airline calls a slowdown that has caused the number of flights that are delayed and canceled to skyrocket.

More than 1,000 American flights have been canceled and 12,000 delayed in the past month alone.

Airline management has blamed the situation on pilots filing what it claims are frivolous reports about aircraft problems. The pilots union has denied management’s assertion.

Robert Gless, deputy director of the Air Transport Division of the Transport Workers Union of America, on Tuesday dismissed the notion that the problems with loose seats were linked to labor issues as “without any basis in fact.”

Seat installation work is largely carried out by outside contractors, rather than maintenance personnel employed by the airline, he said in a statement.

“Problems related to seats are less likely a labor problem, but rather a management issue related to outsourcing work to third-party facilities,” he said.

American Airlines plans to increase its use of outside maintenance facilities, including in China and other overseas locations, as it seeks to exit bankruptcy, he added.

CNN’s Stephanie Halasz, Saskya Vandoorne, Sherri Maksin and Nick Valencia contributed to this report.

™ & © 2012 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

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