Check that your seatbelt is securely fastened…

And, if you’re flying on an American Airlines 757 you might also want to check that the the seats themselves are properly attached to the aircraft floor. The company has now confirmed three separate incidents in the past week where a set of three seats came loose from the floor. At least two of the incidents resulted in flights diverting. The carrier has pulled eight aircraft out of service for additional inspections. In Boston today workers were spotted removing seats from a plane, likely for testing or inspection.

Almost as scary as the confirmation that this has happened – seriously, when was the last time you heard of seats coming loose on a plane!?!? – is that no one seems to know how or why it happened. Despite suggestions that non-union maintenance workers might be responsible the company has stated, "The issue does not seem to be tied to any one maintenance facility or one work group." They also noted that in each case the planes were sent for maintenance involving the seats being removed and reinstalled but that American Airlines maintenance employees were the last to touch the planes before they returned to service. The company has also denied sabotage by employees, the mere mention of which is scary.

The best guess right now is that apparently there is "a possible issue" with a specific model of seats and "how they fit" on the mounting tracks. I’d say that three coming loose in a week is a pretty good indication there is something wrong there. What is not clear is whether these are a new model of seats the airline is installing on their planes or an older model which suddenly discovered they do not fit well.

A few weeks ago, when WSJ Columnist Scott McCartney suggested that passengers avoid flying on American I was a bit suspect, suggesting that it would take "a more extended disruption before passenger habits change." But that was back when we were just talking about on-time arrivals, not the seats coming loose on the plane.

This has not been a good month for AA. Hopefully things turn around for them quickly; all passengers are negatively affected when things like this happen.

UPDATE (2 Oct 12 5pm ET): AA seems to think they figured out what’s going on.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. I am an EXP and have diverted all of my travel since Labor Day to other airlines. I hate giving up my upgrades but I simply can’t be held up due to the delays and cancellations.

    Now this seat issue? Really? Between United and AA here in Chicago I’m pretty much stuck with a choice between crappy service (United and now AA) and crappy aircraft (AA)

  2. @victor. You are tempting fate when you say “I’m pretty much stuck with a choice between crappy service (United and now AA) and crappy aircraft (AA)”. UA will no doubt be happy to provide some crappy aircraft for your delectation.

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