American Airlines Says 14 Planes Have a Problem With Overhead Bins.
Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
You’d think this was the time for counseling.
Yet who will step in to counsel American Airlines and its mechanics, as they stand toe-to-toe, throwing haymakers.
After I’d written about American Airlines employees warning that the airline could start using inferior parts in its planes, as the airline looks to outsource more of its maintenance, Gary Peterson got in touch.
He’s international vice-president of the Transport Workers Union of America. He’s also an aircraft technician.
Peterson wanted me to understand how bad, in his view, American’s maintenance systems are. He wrote:
737-800 3EK was brought into Tulsa after the cabin OASIS modification was done by a chop shop in Washington. This aircraft has been flying around in an unairworthy condition, putting passengers and crews at risk, after it was brought in-house over 500 items have been written up!
I really don’t like the sound of “flying around in an unairworthy condition.”
Should you be unfamiliar with the OASIS, this is American’s refitting of planes in order to shove more seats inside them, reduce legroom — even in First Class — and insert tiny bathrooms.
As well as larger overhead bins.
Now about those bins. Naturally, I asked American about Peterson’s accusations. A spokesperson for the airline replied:
American operates 304 Boeing 737-800 aircraft and we have identified an issue with the quality of work conducted on overhead bins on two of these Boeing 737-800 aircraft. The interiors on these aircraft were recently updated by a long-time FAA-licensed vendor.
May I interject to note that a mere 60 or so of these aircraft have actually undergone the OASIS modification? Now, back to the airline:
After further inspection by American, the work that was conducted on these two aircraft was not up to our standards. Out of an abundance of caution, we have proactively removed from service the additional 12 aircraft that were updated by this vendor and have notified the FAA. We will perform additional inspection work on these 14 aircraft. Though the issue did not impact the safety of flight of these aircraft, we are working with our vendor and the FAA to immediately address this issue.
That’s a relief. There’s merely a single issue with overhead bins.
I put this to Peterson, who didn’t quite agree. He told me:
There were 675 items written up by A&P Technicians [FAA-approved technicians who hold an Airframe and/or Powerplant certificate] in Tulsa, including all the wiring that was improperly terminated & the high voltage feeder cable from the E&E [Electric and Electronic] compartment to the APU [Auxiliary Power Unit] that was improperly installed. This is a lot more serious than people think.
Peterson sent me several pictures that he said proved the work done by an independent shop may cause planes to catch fire.
Of course, this is all happening while the mechanics are in contract negotiations with the airline.
Some might feel that the mechanics are working to rule, as they call it in the trade, in order to hamper the airline’s operations and secure a better deal for themselves.
Mechanics at all airlines are especially concerned about outsourcing.
American isn’t alone in having such problems. Southwest has chosen to sue its mechanics, as the airline believes they’re performing deliberate sabotage.
The whole affair, though, offers a very dim view of management/employee relations.
In the middle of it all are the passengers. What are they supposed to think?
There don’t seem to have been any safety issues with American flights resulting from maintenance issues.
But it only takes one incident, doesn’t it?