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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)

Countable

Written by Countable

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(67)
  • Mary
    08/01/2017
    ···

    We have all seen how passengers are behaving on flights. I contend that some of this violence and anger stems from being crammed into a tin can for hours at a time. All you need is for the person in front of you to put his/her seat back to make you lose even more space. The airlines are making tons of money on all the fees they charge and extra on baggage fees as well. Traveling used to be fun. Now it is an ordeal to be suffered. I have no sympathy for airline management who (I suppose) only fly 1st. Class or on corporate jets. Take some seats out. Let your passengers breathe.

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  • SPK-MYS
    08/01/2017
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    Don't you know that when you cram a bunch of hogs into a small area for a period of time, they'll bite each other's tails off? I vote for more space on a flight.... and I only weigh 128 lbs. I've avoided flying as much as I can.

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  • HockeyGuy
    08/01/2017
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    We can thank President Reagan for his master stroke of deregulating the transportation system resulting in more accidents via air, sea, and roads! Wanna fix it? Pass a bill regulating the transportation system, or at minimum regulate air travel. Regulations can dictate seating size standards and set other standards for the airline industry.

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  • Susan
    08/01/2017
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    Support the courts ruling on this. Passenger safety and health is at risk the FAA needs to get its act together and tell the airlines to make the seats like they were. Screw profits health and safety is more important

    Like (19)
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  • Eric
    08/01/2017
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    This is a direct consequence of deregulation. Now we have technically only four major airlines who can do what they like to maximize shareholder value. It will only get worse over time.

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  • August
    08/01/2017
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    My comments come from not just reading the news, but working as a ( American Airlines) mechanic for six years. The seating is about profit and not any other issues. All the airlines are the same, but ask AA to explain what happened to the " More room in coach" policy? They spent millions to install it and take it out. It is all driven by profits, over consumer needs and safety.

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  • Jan
    08/01/2017
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    Airlines have been punishing people for at least 20 years. I remember roomy seats and leg room in 1968. I am overweight, I recently list 159 lbs. imagine how I felt when it didn't make that much of a difference! Totally bullshite and greedy bastards. Thank God, I sat with my husband on the inside so I don't offend anyone. He's disabled so we courteously wait until all the able bodied people leave first.

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  • Jeanne
    08/01/2017
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    I hate to fly. The seats are the size of a small child's chair and there's no knee room. Once in the seat, you have to contort yourself to get out. The reclining seats need to go until there's more leg room.

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  • Sally
    08/01/2017
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    All the folks that need or want to fly whether for work vacation or whatever other reason deserves much better than being crammed like cattle-it's like taking pigs to slaughtered. Enough already!!

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  • Lisa
    08/01/2017
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    The shrinking airline seat has become so uncomfortable over the years for my average body female body frame and it is at the point of being ridiculous and inhumane. My 6' husband and son are extremely limited in movement. The must surely be a factor in the incidence of DVT. This is not to mention the terror that claustrophobic people experience when seated in a middle seat, especially between two large frame people. The current seat sizes are simply infuriating.

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  • Joanne
    08/01/2017
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    I support enhancing and mandating the shrinking seat law and many others on the airline industry. There is NO benefit to the public' wallet going on. Just less included in the ticket fee and more fees added on. Another big business getting richer while sucking the money out of the people's pockets. We need regulations on the airline industry.

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  • Jean
    08/01/2017
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    "The petition indicated 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. 'Please set a standard for seats on airlines. No wonder I feel fatter and fatter every time I take a flight. I am not wealthy so I have to fly coach and it is painful to do. I always need a day to recover from being squished. Let's add the 11/2 inches to each seat we lost in 2000 and go back to 35 inches between seat rows. Believe me it won't be comfortable but it won't be painful and it will be much safer.

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  • Dave
    08/01/2017
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    When first class starts looking like second class then it will change. Did not have this problem, when it was regulated and you could fly anywhere in the USA cheep!

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  • Lou
    08/01/2017
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    Please support FAA efforts to enact legislation that will force airlines to increase seat size. Both distance to seat in front of passenger and distance between seats (side by side). By having seats so closely together in economy some airlines force passengers to spend more money for seats that are only slightly roomier. That's just not right.

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  • Peter
    08/01/2017
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    Establishing rules for all airlines to play by is what we do as a society though regulations. By giving a simple rule like seat size and legroom, it prevents airlines from undercutting each other by simply packing more people in. Full disclosure... I'm 6'4".

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  • Dara
    08/01/2017
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    Deregulation of the airline industry was a massive mistake. The CEO's and stockholders have one goal: money. This is another example of corporate greed. This industry needs oversite. When will we learn balance???

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  • Vanessa
    08/01/2017
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    It about time! Great!

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  • Kathy
    08/01/2017
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    It's about time. Flying is no fun at all anymore. The airlines want to charge you to sit in select seats. They nickel and dime you to death for everything.

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  • Stacy
    08/01/2017
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    If people can not evacuate safely there should be more room. When the avg size of people is going up, the row size should not be going down. This is a blatant safety issue and needs to be addressed.

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  • Ochoninja
    08/01/2017
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    There needs to be some controls on seat sizes. I paid an extra $80 on a flight for special seating and was placed on a seat which was so close behind me I could'nt tilt seat 💺 because passenger behind me's knee was pressing against my seat back. What a scam to make extra moneys

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