NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Planes have been grounded and the feds are now investigating American Airlines.
The Federal Aviation Administration is probing two separate instances of rows of airplane seats dislodging in mid-air.
The latest incident happened Monday when a flight from New York to Miami was forced to return to John F. Kennedy International Airport. On Saturday, a flight from Boston to Miami had to make an emergency landing at JFK.
An American Airlines spokesperson said Flight 443, a Boeing 757, departed JFK on Monday at around 7:15 a.m. en route to Miami. During the flight a row of three seats came loose, officials said. Passengers were moved to other seats and the flight landed safely at JFK. All of the passengers were put on another plane, which landed in Miami at 2:15 p.m.
On Saturday, American Airlines Flight 685, also a Boeing 757, was diverted to JFK after a row of three seats became loose in the coach cabin of the Boeing 757, an airline spokesperson said. Three passengers were moved to other seats on the flight before the plane landed safely around 12:50 p.m., officials said.
Both planes had recently had maintenance done, officials said.
No injuries were reported in either incident.
1010 WINS’ Al Jones reports
American Airlines said it is taking a total of eight aircraft with similar seating assemblies out of service as a result. The airline said it is looking at the incidents as a maintenance issue.
In a call to air traffic control, the pilot of Flight 685 can be heard saying, “Got an unusual one for you. Passenger seats rows 12D, E and F, uh, came loose out of the floor. Passengers are unable to, uh, sit in that seat.”
Several hours later, passengers were placed on another flight to Miami.
WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reports
“This is something that I think we will find out is either as a result of fatigue or inappropriate or unnoticed maintenance,” CBS News aviation safety consultant Mark Rosenker told WCBS 880.
American denied any sort of sabotage by unionized maintenance workers, but retired pilot John Tristani told CBS 2’s Jessica Schneider that this is just too much of a coincidence to be anything but.
“That’s exactly what I expect management to say. It would be detrimental to their flight scheduling if they admitted to passengers that there are possible job actions that could endanger their lives,” Tristani said.
American is facing heightened scrutiny from the FAA because it is locked in a bitter dispute with its workers after nullifying all labor contracts in the wake of its bankruptcy filing last year. The problems have led to significant delays and cancellations, CBS 2’s Schneider reported.
The airline is conducting an internal investigation.
“Safety is our top priority,” American Airlines spokesperson Matt Miller said in a statement. “We never have – and never will – compromise the safety and reliability of our fleet.”
American issued another statement Monday afternoon, which said in part: “The seats were installed by American maintenance and contract maintenance. The issue does not seem to be tied to any one maintenance facility or one workgroup. This afternoon, the company flew engineers, tech crew chiefs, and inspectors from its Tulsa maintenance base to New York to evaluate the aircraft and determine the next course of action to correct the problem.
“We are in contact with the FAA. They are aware of our internal review.”
The FAA said it is looking into the two incidents, adding “The airline’s initial inspection of each aircraft found other rows of seats that were not properly secured. Preliminary information indicates that both aircraft had recently undergone maintenance during which the seats had been removed and re-installed.”
Many travelers told CBS 2’s Schneider they are taking a second look when it comes to choosing American.
“Obviously, American Airlines is not being transparent with information,” said concerned flier Patrick Rodgers. “If there are issues, they owe it to the American public.”
“Quite frightening really, because you think airline security today should be the utmost priority,” passenger Ian Devine said.
“I’m hoping that everything is going to be okay, because I’m traveling with American Airlines,” Sebastian Rafih added.
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