Court Sides With Passengers Over The 'Incredible Shrinking Airline Seat'

Court Sides With Passengers Over The 'Incredible Shrinking Airline Seat'

"Otherwise, airlines will continue to shrink seats".

The U.S. Court of Appeals has ordered the FAA to investigate the safety factors behind shrinking airline seat sizes.

However, Judge Judith Rogers dissented from part of the court's rationale.

The FAA declined and the group filed suit in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia. This, they said, not only compromises passenger comfort but also their safety as well and this got the judges' attention.

The passenger group says small seats that are bunched too close together slow down emergency evacuations and raise the danger of travelers developing vein clots.

"We applaud the court's decision, and the path to larger seats has suddenly become a bit wider", said Kendall Creighton, a spokeswoman for Flyers Rights, as cited by the Guardian.

"We have to oblige to the court's ruling, and our next step is to consider the spacing between the seat rows when testing to ensure the safe evacuation of airlines", remarked the Federal Aviation Administration spokesman, Ian Gregor. She said the FAA can not make such a claim without evidence. Its main US trade group, Airlines for America, declined to comment on the ruling.

It is reported that airlines have been steadily reducing the space between rows to facilitate extra seats and enable them to rake in more money and increase profit margins.

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The seat pitch, or the distance between the back of a seat and the back of the seat in front of an average airline seat in economy class in the USA has decreased from 89 cm (35 inches) in the '70s to 79cm (31 inches).

A bill now under consideration in the House of Representatives would require the FAA to set minimum seat sizes as well as a minimum distance between rows. Those rows will have 30 inches (76 centimeters) of pitch - still a tighter fit than the airline's current planes.

"That makes no sense", she wrote for the three-judge panel, likening the rationale to doing "a study on tooth decay that only recorded participants' sugar consumption" but did not look at brushing and flossing.

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said Friday that after objections from customers and flight attendants, the airline backed off.

The issue could wind up in Congress.

The Reuters article also notes that seat width has decreased from 18 inches to 16.5 inches in the past 10 years and pitch has decreased from 35 inches to 31 inches since 1972.

Earlier this year, American Airlines announced a plan to decrease that amount to 29 inches in the last several rows on some of its Boeing 737s, a change that would allow the airline to add an extra row of higher-priced premium seats at the front of the cabin. Some lawmakers have proposed legislation to regulate seat size.

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