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Appeal Court Rejects FAA’s Refusal to Regulate Airline Seat Size, Reports Passenger Rights Group

Appeal Court Rejects FAA’s Refusal to Regulate Airline Seat Size, Reports Passenger Rights Group


The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in a unanimous decision has granted airline passengers a rare victory, ruling that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had shown no reasonable basis for denying a 2015 petition by the passenger organization to institute rulemaking over ever-shrinking seat sizes. The Court rebuked the FAA for improperly relying on studies that were irrelevant, outdated or not in the record to conclude that seat size did not affect safety. The Court remanded the matter back to agency to review the petition.

Current safety regulations require that all occupants in a fully loaded airliner be able to evacuate within 90 seconds with half the exits disabled in low light conditions, in order to reduce likely fatalities due to smoke, fire or drowning common crash landings.

Paul Hudson, president of and a longtime member of the FAA Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee, commented

“FAA Administrator Huerta should now appoint a representative advisory committee to recommend minimum seat standards and place a moratorium on further seat and leg room reductions by airlines until new regulations are adopted. Otherwise, Congress should pass pending legislation requiring the FAA to act.”

“Otherwise, airlines will continue to shrink seats. Already about 10% of passengers (those over 250 lbs or over 6’2″) cannot fit into economy seats without encroaching on their neighbors or into the aisle. Nearly everyone is uncomfortable, subject to increased stress from overcrowding and a greater risk of blood clots on long haul flights.” 

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