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Thu, Jan 29, 2009

American Cuts 767-300 Capacity Due To Lack Of Rafts

Audit Determined Seat Change Took Planes Out Of Regs

The next time you're onboard an American Airlines trans-Atlantic flight, you may notice fewer people onboard. The Fort Worth, TX-based airline will limit the number of passengers allowed to fly onboard its Boeing 767-300s, after the carrier found the planes did not have the required number of life rafts onboard.

American spokesman Tim Wagner told The Associated Press the problem stems from American's recently-redesigned business-class cabins on the widebody planes, which expanded the number of available seats.

Some planes have been flying since 2005 without a suitable number of rafts onboard. Wagner said the problem came to light when the airline reviewed life raft capacity on its recently-added Boeing 737-800s -- spurred by the recent ditching of a US Airways A320 -- and opted to conduct similar reviews throughout the fleet.

FAA regulations require enough life rafts to accommodate a full cabin of passengers, including children seated on parents' laps, even of one life raft fails to inflate.

American's 767-300s can hold 236 people, including 11 crewmembers. Until more rafts are added -- American expects the process to take about a month, including crewmember training -- the carrier will limit passenger capacity to no more than 228 people on 767-300 flights to Europe and Latin America.

The airline stressed passengers were not endangered by the oversight, as there are other flotation devices available for passengers to use in the event of a water landing.

Wagner was not aware of any affected flights that are booked to capacity. "Given the time of year and what's going on in the economy, I'm not aware of any flights where we're going to have to bump someone," he said.

American has 58 767-300s in its fleet. All other types passed the test, Wagner said.



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