Over the past week, American Airlines, unfortunately, had to ground a total of 14 aircraft due to issues with the overhead bins not closing. The airline was forced to cancel 40 flights because of safety concerns with the planes.
American’s Interior Design Disaster
Complaints came earlier this week from pilots of two Boeing 737-800 aircraft. Both planes had undergone a routine maintenance check in Tulsa, OK when the issue was discovered. The aircraft were recently serviced for interior upgrades which led to the overhead bin problem.
American contracted ATS to upgrade the interior design of 14 Boeing 737-800 planes. ATS is an external contractor who has worked with American on a long-term basis. The renovations included newly installed overhead bins and new seats with power outlets. The overhead bins are larger than the original to support more luggage space.
The planes were returned to American Airlines with expectations to put them immediately back into service. The discovery of the first two planes having overhead bin trouble signaled that American Airlines should ground the remaining 12 jets that also were serviced by the contractor. The 14 aircraft will now go through a complete inspection of the new renovations to ensure no other issues arise.
A rep from American Airlines spoke with Fortune stating, “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.” ATS is licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) so is responsible for complying with all industry regulations. Safety is a major concern for American Airlines, so the action to ground the planes is done in the best interest of the passengers.
The Result of the Grounded Flights
Although the planes are grounded due to safety concerns, American Airlines claims that the overhead bins malfunctioning didn’t affect flight safety. Regardless, all of the aircraft that were serviced will be inspected before becoming active again. The American fleet includes 290 other Boeing 737-800 aircraft. The rest of these planes were not serviced and unaffected by the issue. There may have been plans for renovating the rest of the fleet, but any possibility of that is on hold until the current problem is resolved.
Passengers also felt the effects of the flight groundings. Two of the aircraft serviced were removed earlier in the week while the remaining 12 planes were taken out on Thursday, March 7. Removing the active airplanes caused the airline to cancel 40 flights throughout the week. All of the passengers were rebooked. American released a statement apologizing for the inconvenience but once again stressed that flight safety is the most critical concern.
ATS works with several airlines, one of them being Southwest Airlines. Southwest was recently in the news over mechanical issues that were found in a large segment of its fleet. Speculation about Southwest was that the contract negotiations with mechanics were the cause of the problems, American Airlines is also currently in contract negotiations with mechanics so there may be a correlation.
As a result of the overhead bins not working, American Airlines suffered a 1.7% drop in share price over the day.