American Airlines: A Battle of Wavering Trust

Picture is of American Airlines flipped seats displayed on ABC Local 10 Miami News Station.

American Airlines has found three separate occurrences of their seats being improperly bolted to the floor during passenger flights. Two of these incidents caused emergency landings, and in one case flipped passenger’s seats’ back midflight. On an additional aircraft, passengers were told to brace for emergency landing after the landing gear jammed shorting after takeoff. As a result of this, the airline has gradually inspected 757 aircrafts. In the past week, American Airlines has taken half of their 757 Boeing fleet out of service in order to inspect the seats. It is great that half of the fleet has been examined, but what about the other uninspected planes? Are they still safe to fly on?

Some people have pointed to mechanical sabotage instigated by recent labor issues. As a result American Airlines mechanics have lost their jobs due to outsourcing, which has people wondering if mechanics have unsecured bolts on purpose. The mechanics union refutes this claim saying that mechanical issues should be pointed the new maintenance procedures.

However, the FAA did note that the first two aircrafts had undergone maintenance, in which the seats were removed and re-installed, recently before the seat incidents.  While this opens a window of possibility to the sabotage claim, it also may indicate human error. It is very possible that these incidents occurred because they were not secured properly, which reflects the management personnel on duty and inspection of mechanical work. As Deming noted, 94% of problems occur because of a faulty system, not because of the workforce. It is possible that the process structure did not allow for sufficient time to review work or added stress to the mechanics process which created the human error.

The recent incidences have caused a lack of trust in both employees and customers of American Airlines, two areas that the airline should strive to satisfy.  Employees are scrutinized for the American Airlines mishaps and may feel like their jobs are unstable while the airline deals with this rough patch. The pilots of the aircraft with the landing gear issues have even been blamed for sabotaging the plane in an effort to sway the negotiations with the pilots’ union. Customers who have been on the defective aircrafts are dissatisfied with the service being provided to them. In one case, passengers were told to brace for crash landing, thinking that their lives were in danger. A crash landing did not end up being used.

It seems as if American Airlines has various issues that they need to resolve, and resole fast if they hope to retain their customer base. While it is not definitive what caused the mechanical issues or if labor negotiations played a part, I do not feel comfortable boarding an American Airlines plane at this time. In the airlines current condition, would you take the chance of boarding one of the uninspected planes?

4 thoughts on “American Airlines: A Battle of Wavering Trust

  1. There’s definitely a maintenance issue with AA’s seat malfunctions. I guess more people would risk using AA if it means getting a “bang for their buck” in the travel time allotted to them, as this has happened on three flights, customers are probably seeing reward outweighing risk in regards to the fact that the rest of AA’s flights (in the hundreds) won’t be seeing this problem. The problem definitely goes back to manufacturing, installation and human error. This essentially goes to show that issue could be traced back to poor instruction on the part of management, engineers or AA’s supply chain as a whole. All in all the issue in article brings up a very interesting point in the problems that could be tied back to a bevy of management-related issues.

  2. The airline industry is definitely one that is struggling and American Airlines is no exception. Like mentioned above, people will continue to fly what is cheapest just because they believe the reward outweighs the risk. However, it is the duty of American Airlines to make sure that they deliver on a product that they sell. If there are labor disputes going on because the company is not doing well, the company needs to make sure that they are consistently delivering a dependable service and product. Stronger management needs to be put in place to make sure that the planes have no defects or else the company will get an even worse reputation. The company also needs to make sure that the pilots are kept happy if there is suspicion that they too are sabotaging the flights. It will be interesting to see where American Airlines is in the next ten or twenty years.

  3. American Airlines is obligated to provide a safe environment for their customers, and they have failed miserably. The labor disputes are no excuse for poor quality that American Airlines has provided its customers. The customers have not paid less because of these disputes, if anything they are paying more as the price of airfare has increased at a rapid rate in recent months. As a frequent air traveler I will not fly American Airlines because of the lack of respect the company has for their customers. What will it take for the company to end the disputes?

  4. It is surprising to see this lack of attention to something that compromises the safety of passengers in the airline industry. No matter how these problems came to be, they could have been prevented. If people do not feel safe thousands of feet up in the air they are not going to take their business to your company.

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