By DAVID KOENIGAP Airlines Writer
DALLAS (AP) - American Airlines says passenger seats on a third flight came loose as the plane was airborne, and it's continuing to inspect other jets with similar seating.
The airline acknowledged Tuesday that seats came loose on a flight last week between Vail, Colo., and Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. The same thing happened on a flight Saturday and another on Monday.
American Airlines spokeswoman Andrea Huguely says the airline is inspecting eight of its Boeing 757s that share similar seat assemblies.
Huguely said the loose seats were not the result of sabotage by workers. American's union employees are unhappy about pending layoffs and cuts in pay and benefits that American has imposed since filing for bankruptcy protection in November. American accuses some pilots of conducting an illegal work slowdown that has caused a jump in canceled and delayed flights.
An initial review by American indicated that there could be a problem with the way the seats fit into tracks on the floor of the Boeing 757, but technical teams from the airline "are looking at everything," Huguely said.
The planes involved in the Saturday and Monday incidents were recently worked on at an American Airlines maintenance base in Tulsa, Okla., and a Timco Aviation Services facility in North Carolina. In both cases American employees were the last to touch the seats, which were removed and reinstalled during maintenance, Huguely said.
A Timco spokesman declined to comment beyond saying that the company is still investigating.
The Federal Aviation Administration said it is looking into the incidents.
The reports about seats coming loose during flights raised questions about safety on the nation's third biggest airline. Aviation industry experts said publicity about the problem could cause passengers to stay away from American and fly on other airlines instead.
Asked if seats had ever come loose on an American flight before last week, Huguely replied, "Not that I'm aware of."
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