NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The American Airlines seat scare has expanded to a third flight. Some have suspected sabotage, but on Tuesday surfaced a new theory on what's causing the loose seats.
Earlier in the day, a row of seats was seen being carried on to an American plane at Boston's Logan Airport.
While the airline reconfigures seating for more leg room, the plans to enhance customer comfort may actually be causing big problems. American said the loose seats stem from improperly installed clamps that secure the seats to the underlying floor track. Six planes were found to have problems, but all are back in service, the airline said.
In less than one week there have been three instances of seats coming loose mid-flight.
"If I was a passenger, I'd want to know, before I buckle in to one of those seats, that they fixed the problem," aviation attorney Justin Green told CBS 2's Jessica Schneider. "It's a black eye for American, regardless of the cause."
The first signs of trouble surfaced last week when a row of passenger seats on a flight from Dallas to Vail, Colo., came loose. The flight made it to Vail, where the seats were tightened, and then the plane returned to Dallas.
But the same plane was used in Monday's flight from John F. Kennedy International Airport to Miami. It had to be turned around and returned to New York when a row of seats again came unbolted.
And on Saturday there was more seat trouble as a flight from Boston to Miami had to make an emergency landing at JFK.
In response, American Airlines spent Tuesday inspecting nearly 50 Boeing 757s.
American insisted that the problems are all maintenance related, despite coming in the midst of a big labor dispute, but some aviation observers said this must be more than just a coincidence.
"It would be detrimental to their flight schedule to admit to passengers that there are possible job actions that could endanger their lives," former pilot John Tristani said.
"The economic pressure that is going on in the airline industry does lead to corners being cut, and really has the potential for reducing safety," Green added.
Union workers, however, insisted this is not a case of sabotage. The Transport Workers Union of America released the following statement: "The facts are TWU has ratified agreements with the airline in recent weeks for all its members. Problems related to seats are less likely a labor problem, but rather a management issue related to outsourcing work to third-party facilities."
There is better news for American on the labor dispute front. The pilots' union is moving to resume stalled contract negotiations with the carrier. This could lead to an end of the stalemate between American and its 7,500 pilots.
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