Thoughts About Shrinking Airplane Seats? The FAA Is (Finally) Listening.
Despite having failed to address it in any significant way for several years now, the agency is now opening the topic up to the court of public opinion
How small is too small?
When it comes to airplane seat size, it’s a widely debated topic — one that the Federal Aviation Association has been urged to answer for years. In fact, per a report from USA Today, an airline passenger advocacy group called FlyersRights.org has been lobbying for the creation of minimum seat dimensions since 2015. Three years later, in 2018, a federal mandate was passed, which set forth a set of requirements for the FAA regarding seat size and the implications it could have on safety (e.g. conduciveness to a 90 seconds or less evacuation).
“Seats have continued to shrink by some airlines, and people are continuing to get larger,” said president of FlyersRights.org Paul Hudson. “Our estimate is that only 20% of the population can reasonably fit in these seats now. It’s beyond a matter of comfort, or even emergency evacuation, there are serious health and safety issues when you’re put in cramped conditions for hours on end.”
“At some point, enough is enough. The FAA has had three years to address this important safety issue. As we have seen with safety certification, particularly with the Boeing 737 MAX, the FAA chooses to continue to act as a tombstone agency, only acting after fatal accidents occur,” Hudson noted previously.
However, despite the legislation and being given a year to establish a standard — and save for a few studies — the issue has gone largely unaddressed by the FAA. Until now…and you may actually have a say in the matter.
That’s because the FAA has announced an advance notice of proposed rule-making inviting members of the public to weigh in. Over the course of a 90-day period, anyone will be allowed to submit feedback on seat dimensions.
“Congress directed the FAA to, after notice and comment, issue such rules for minimum dimensions for passenger seats that are necessary for passenger safety. The FAA seeks public comment on the minimum seat dimensions that are necessary for passenger safety,” the agency said.
Of course, the caveat is that there is no timeline in place, nor is the FAA required to heed any of the advise it may receive. And because the same public that they’re now soliciting input from has been increasingly vocal about their desire for larger plane seats to no avail for almost a decade now, it’s probably worth tempering expectations. That said, the funding for the requirement is up for reauthorization again in 2023, according to USA Today, and that legislation is likely include a renewed requirement for the agency to finally address the topic.
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