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Activists Force FAA To Address Shrinking Airline Seats

by Countable | 7.31.17

What’s the story?

In what some experts call a "groundbreaking" ruling, judges in a federal district court of appeals directed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to “adequately address” the “Case of the Incredible Shrinking Airline Seat.”

Why does it matter?

An advocacy group, Flyers Rights, petitioned the FAA in 2015 to enact new regulations mandating a minimum seat size. The New York Times notes that the petition argues:

"the distance between seats from row to row had decreased to an average of 31 inches from an average of 35 inches and that the average seat width had narrowed by about an inch and a half since the early 2000s, [while] the average adult man was 191 pounds, a gain of 25 pounds from 1960 to 2002, and the average adult woman had gained 24 pounds, to 164 pounds, in that time.”

The concern raised is that the two divergent changes — seat size decreasing and passenger size increasing — combine to make it difficult for passengers to evacuate in an emergency. As well, confinement in the smaller seats may contribute to potentially fatal circulation issues, like deep vein thrombosis.

The FAA resisted the advocacy effort, citing data that they would not disclose due to the information being "proprietary." Airlines have also argued, says CNN, that increasing the number of seats per flight helps consumers:

"Airlines contend that increasing the number of seats on an airplane is good for both the bottom line of the carrier and a traveler's wallet. By spreading its costs to operate a flight over a larger number of seats on the same size plane, the airline can offer lower fares and operate more efficiently by flying fewer flights.”

The court, however, argued that the FAA had not gone far enough in addressing the obvious concerns or justifying their rejection of the effort.

The ruling does not require the FAA to enact specific regulations. It only requires it to study the matter and publish its findings using data viewable by the public and the courts.

What can you do?

Do you support the FAA enacting regulations concerning minimum seat size? Or are you more interested in cheaper flights?

Use the Take Action button to tell your reps what you think!

— Asha Sanaker

(Photo Credit: Wikimedia / Creative Commons)

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