While rare, such incidents are not unprecedented. In 2008, according to media accounts, a United Airlines flight had to make an emergency landing when a row of seats came loose on takeoff.
The National Transportation Safety Board -- which investigates U.S. civilian aircraft accidents -- does not track loose-seat incidents, spokesman Peter Knudson said.
When asked about gunked seat-track fittings, a Delta spokesman said, "We are not seeing what our competitor has described on the same scale by any means."
The coffee and snacks suggestion also didn't sit well on airlinesforums.com, an online gathering spot for pilots and airline maintenance crews.
"Must have been 'Alien' blood to dissolve metal," posted one user, referring to the film with the space monster with acid blood. Suggestions on the site are rampant that American's maintenance contractors bore responsibility for the problems.
American, however, has said maintenance work was not to blame for the problems. Vice President David Campbell also dismissed the possibility that the problems could be linked to an ongoing labor dispute.
Last month, a judge threw out American's contract with its pilots union. Since then, pilots have staged what the airline calls a slowdown that has caused the number of flights that are delayed and canceled to skyrocket.
More than 1,000 American flights have been canceled and 12,000 delayed in the past month alone.
Airline management has blamed the situation on pilots filing what it says are frivolous reports about aircraft problems. The pilots union has denied management's assertion.
"I really have a difficult time believing that it's actually sabotage," Campbell said.
American Airlines also filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection late last year.