American Airlines grounded 14 of its planes earlier this week, citing issues with overhead bins that fail to close properly. While the carrier admits faulty overhead bins are at the heart of the groundings, which resulted in 40 flight cancellations, an airline mechanic has raised the possibility of a more alarming dilemma that's kept the planes immobile: faulty electrical wiring and improperly installed life rafts.
The airline recently contracted a longtime vendor to update the cabins of some of its Boeing 737-800s as part of a retrofitting scheme called reports NBC News. The plan involves augmenting planes with 12 additional seats, bigger overhead compartments, and electrical outlets in passenger seats. However, the process didn't go according to plan: Pilots noticed something was amiss with the overhead compartments after the retrofitting.
However, the issue may be a bit larger than that—at least according to Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 591 president Gary Schaible. He that mechanics at American's maintenance facility in Tulsa, Oklahoma, found "additional issues" with the aircraft during maintenance inspections.
Though Schaible didn't expand on any "additional issues" when speaking with Reuters, another union representative has been vocal about the issue on Twitter. In a series of tweets yesterday, Gary Peterson, the Vice President of the TWU, alleged the affected planes also suffer from wiring woes and improperly installed life rafts.
Seniorhelpline reached out to Peterson regarding his tweets, and will update the post if and when we hear back.
In a statement to Seniorhelpline, American Airlines stressed the groundings were strictly precautionary, and noted that only two aircraft were found to have defective overhead compartments. An additional 12 planes that underwent the same retrofitting process were removed from runways "out of an abundance of caution."
The airline said:
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.
The airline told NBC News that it's monitoring the situation in conjunction with the FAA.