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Leather Seat Covers Help American Reduce Delays

Cloth seat covers are harder to clean, causing significant turnaround issues.

American Airlines has found the solution to one of the most common reasons for delays, by replacing cloth seat covers with leather.

The engineered leather seat covers have resulted in a ninefold decrease on some delays, Craig Barton, vice president of technical services at the airline, said at Aviation Week’s MRO Americas conference in Orlando, Florida.

Legacy American aircraft were equipped with cloth seat covers, and soiled seats were among the top 10 reasons for flight delays, Barton says. Soiled or wet seats are typically discovered as passengers board the aircraft, which is among the worst times for a repair to be made.

Liquids can penetrate the seat cover and dampen the cushions, requiring a more complicated fix for the technician to perform, and this caused significant delays across American’s system, he says.

The leather seat covers on the legacy US Airways fleet can be cleaned simply by wiping down and cleansing the seat. This one fix has reduced seat-cushion related delays by more than 90%, Barton says, and has contributed to American’s improving on-time performance.

The carrier has swapped the seat covers on its entire Boeing 737 fleet. The 777 fleet is “about halfway done,” Barton says. The seats on the 767 and 757 fleets are being replaced as part of a complete cabin refresh on those types, he notes.

Separately, American essentially operates two distinct maintenance systems and staffs, Barton says. The carrier is beginning to integrate the systems as one of the final pieces of the American-US Airways merger. The airline is planning the integration this year, with the first systems starting to migrate to a merged Sceptre-based system in 2018. The task is expected to be completed by 2021, he says.

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