By Derrick Blakley

CHICAGO (CBS) — On at least three recent American Airlines flights, seats became detached from the floor, and some passengers say they were thrown into the laps of other travelers.

American Flight 443 ran into the problem Monday en route to Miami, less than an hour after the Boeing 757 took off from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley reports.

“We’re going to have to burn down fuel and return to Kennedy,” a crew member is heard saying on the flight’s audio.

It happened just two days after a Miami bound flight from Boston ran into the same issue.

“Got an unusual one for you,” the crew is heard saying. “Passenger seats row 12D, E and F came loose out of the floor.”

So far none of the flights flew through Chicago, although American does have a huge presence at O’Hare International Airport.

A woman, who did not want to be identified, described the scene on the Miami-Boston flight.

“The seats flipped backwards,” she said. “It was really a complete nightmare. The passengers were essentially on the laps of the passengers behind them.”

The New York Post revealed it happened a third time last Wednesday on an American Flight from Vail, Colo. to Dallas.

“This should not have happened,” said Mark Roseneker, CBS News transportation safety analyst. “These seats are designed to withstand a great deal of force, and they are not supposed to come off their tracks.

An American spokesman tells CBS 2 the incidents most likely stem from work being done to create seats with more legroom.

American insists the problem is not related a long-running labor dispute with pilots.

But the airline has blamed a rash of flight delays and cancellations on the pilots, a claim that the union denies.

American had a team re-inspect 47 Boeing 757s.

“Our maintenance and engineering teams have discovered that the root cause is a saddle clamp improperly installed on the foot of the row leg,” said American spokeswoman Mary Frances Fagan. “These clamps were used on only 47 of our 102 Boeing 757 airplanes.

“The issue does not seem to be tied to any one maintenance facility or one work group.”

Even the hint of an ongoing safety issue could scare away passengers just at the time they’re making bookings for the busiest time of the year, the holidays.

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