In the wake of the U.S. Airways crash in New York’s Hudson River two weeks ago, American Airlines has decided to temporarily limit the number of passengers on its 767 jets while it rectifies a shortage of life rafts on board.
The Boeing 767-300 can hold up to 236 people when fully loaded, but AA is only allowing a maximum of 228 passengers to fly until it ensures that the planes are fully compliant with FAA regulations.
AA spokesman Tim Wagner said that business class cabin of the 767 had recently been redesigned to accommodate more seats. However he added that the shortfall in raft capacity was not initially noticed until American decided to reexamine all the planes in its fleet after the water landing of the U.S. Airways jet in New York on January 15.
When they discovered that the 767 only carried enough life rafts to handle 228 passengers and crew, airline officials immediately moved to limit the numbers allowed to fly. Other planes in the fleet reportedly meet FAA guidelines.
Wagner said that it will take about a month to get new rafts and to train flight crew in how to use them. In the meantime no passengers on pending flights will have to be bumped, since the planes are not booked at full capacity. No additional seats will be sold.
Despite the shortfall in life rafts, American maintains that passengers would not have been in danger in the event of a water landing, because other devices such as seat cushions can be used as flotation devices. They also noted that FAA regulations require there to be not only enough rafts for all passengers, but an additional raft in case one fails.
The 767-300 comprises about nine percent of American’s fleet of 625 planes. They are primarily used on European routes over the Atlantic, and on South American flights.
By Karen Elowitt for PeterGreenberg.com.
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