By Ken Hegan for MSN Travel

Heard about the American Airlines seat fiasco? The latest development is classic!


Last Friday, American Airlines grounded 48 of their Boeing 757 jets because of ‘loose seats’ which are, of course, dangerous as hell. Apparently the seats had a bad habit of falling down during flights. Fun to watch, I bet, but scary if you’re tumbling around the cabin. As a result, two of their flights had to make emergency landings.

Anyway, spread this loose seat problem over 48 jets and this equals a ton of crappy seats. To put this in perspective, the airline has only 124 of these 757 jets (as of last December). Added up: 48 faulty jets out of 124 total means nearly 40% of their 757 jets had dangerously loose seats. CNN reports that, in the past month alone, 1,000 American flights have been cancelled and 12,000 delayed.

A week after the 48 jets were grounded, the airline has fixed seats on 42 of the 48 jets, with all 48 fixed by tomorrow. So what did they blame for the problem?

“Gunk,” says American Airlines.

Something known as the ‘seat lock plunger mechanism’ can “get gunked up over time with people spilling sodas, popcorn, coffee or whatever and that can affect that locking mechanism on the ground that locks the seat to the floor,” the airline spokeswoman Mary Frances Fagan told CNN today.

She went on to say that “worn locking pins can get stuck when food and beverages spill onto them, allowing seat rows to come unhinged.”

Which is odd. Because earlier this week, the airline blamed the malfunctioning seats on incorrectly-installed seat clamps. Yet now the airline is blaming, well, messy slobs like you and me.

“While the clamps may have played a role, the soda and snack gunk now seems to be among the culprits,” Fagan added.

This might be the worst apology for poor safety in the entire HISTORY OF AVIATION. Especially since another American flight was delayed last night because the pilot announced that there were springs missing from his seat.

Bemused passengers are already mocking the airline’s ‘gunk’ excuse on Twitter. Here are some Tweets and online comments:

@TeamCoco:“Welcome aboard. Please take a moment to ensure your seat is securely fastened to the aircraft.”CNN commenter tengig: I guess it’s a good thing that theater seats don’t fly.

@Beretta_USA: Really, #americanairlines? Spilled coffee is to blame for loose seats? I guess pretzels are to blame for my lost luggage.

 @flyoverangel: American Airlines says seat probs due to “food gunk.” If that’s the case, wouldn’t every highchair ever made fall to pieces?

 @MarketWatch: American Airlines: A broken-down airline for a broken-down nation

CNN commenter DrIncognitus: Perhaps they should charge an extra fee for sitting in rows that have been cleaned properly.
NBC commenter Antidisestablishmentarianistic: All these years and now passengers on American Airlines are starting to spill their drinks?
@MentalFloss: American Airlines says all of its planes will have seats bolted to the floor by Saturday.
What do you think? Is gunk really to blame or is the airline hiding shoddy work/sabotage?

— Ken Hegan

The ‘truth’ behind 4 more Air Canada disasters

Read all Ken’s stories here

Twitter: @KenHegan

Note: some comments edited for clarity

Photo: AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Sources: CNN, CNBC, Tulsa World, and NBC