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Do inspections of aircraft seats occur only after passenger complaints, or do the major carriers conduct their own inspections at regular intervals?

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Apart from what ymb1 and Zach Lipton mentioned, the passenger and flight crew seats are thoroughly inspected during the scheduled maintenance of the aircraft, in which the aircraft can be grounded for several days up to some weeks. Depending on how extensive is the maintenance check, the following items can also be inspected amongst others:

  • Condition of seat floor attachment fittings for tightness.
  • Reclining function, except those before and after the emergency exits (these must not recline at all).z
  • Removal of the seat cushions in order to inspect the seat structure.
  • Periodic replacement of all seat covers (washed or new).
  • Seat belts for condition, operation and proper attachment to the seat.
  • Life vests for presence, condition and expiration date.

Sometimes, when the repair is beyond the capability or the approval of the maintenance center it can be sent to a specialized seat overhauling center.

For more information and fun you can check the British Airways B747 D-check video

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After every flight the cabin is cleaned and inspected. Cleaning requires opening and closing the tray tables, adjusting the seat positions, etc. Any fault will be detected and reported—in a perfect world. Some seats get more attention though, first and business class for example.

If something can't be fixed right away, it'll be on the to-do list.

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    $\begingroup$ Note that the speed and thoroughness of this cleaning and inspection will vary greatly between airlines and flights. Sometimes the cleaning may involve a very quick pass through the cabin to pick up obvious litter (maybe even done by the flight attendants as passengers exit) and sometimes it involves a careful inspection where tray tables are wiped down, seat pockets cleaned, etc... (especially if the aircraft remains overnight or when it will sit for hours before a long-haul flight). $\endgroup$ – Zach Lipton Sep 14 '16 at 1:53

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