A British Airways flight from Milan to London Heathrow was delayed for more than an hour on Monday after a surprise inspection by Italian aviation officials revealed that the roughly five-year-old Airbus A320neo aircraft had the wrong type of seat cushions.
More specifically, some of the seat cushions at the overwing exits were too thick and wide and they needed to be replaced with slightly smaller cushions before the plane could be allowed to takeoff.
The Airbus A320neo has two overwing exits on either side of the aisle, and the seats next to these exits are usually really popular with frequent flyers because they come with substantially more legroom than standard seat rows.
Of course, there’s more legroom at these exits to make it easier for passengers to escape the aircraft in the case of an emergency, but what you might not know is that the seat cushions are slightly thinner and smaller than standard seat cushions to make emergency egress as easy as possible.
It appears that civil aviation inspectors at Milan Linate Airport decided to conduct a spot check on British Airways flight BA575 on Monday and discovered that some of the seat cushions fitted at the emergency exit rows weren’t the correct type.
British Airways doesn’t have a maintenance base in Milan, and with a full flight, simply removing the seat cushions until the aircraft got back to Heathrow wasn’t an option.
There was, however, a potential solution. Perhaps there were seat cushions at other seats that did meet the specifications for an emergency exit seat; it was just a case of finding them onboard the aircraft.
Luckily, the seat cushions have different serial numbers printed on the bottom, so all passengers had to do was lift up their seat cushions to see if they were in possession of an emergency exit cushion.
One TikTok user posted a video showing passengers on the aircraft peeling back their seat cushions as part of a desperate search to locate the missing cushions while the cabin crew read out the serial number over the public address system.
“Basically, they (British Airways) had standard seat cushions in emergency rows; they need to have short ones in case of an emergency,” the TikTok user explained.
“So we are checking under the seats in case they are somewhere else. If we can’t find them, if we can’t find 12, we need to disembark and we are not safe to fly”.
It appears that the passengers eventually located enough of the shorter seat cushions, and the flight eventually landed at London Heathrow just an hour later than planned.
How was this allowed to happen in the first place? Well, British Airways didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment, but this situation isn’t unheard of. Over the years, flights have been delayed for exactly the same reason.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.