Internet Travel Monitor - Industry News

August 2, 2017

Court Dings FAA in ‘Case of Incredible Shrinking Airline Seat’

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Those who think airline seats are becoming too cramped in economy class appear to have found some allies in the federal court system.

In response to a suit filed by the Flyers Rights consumer group, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit told the Federal Aviation Administration it must reconsider whether airline seat size and space should be regulated.

One judge went as far as to label it “the case of the incredible shrinking airline seat," though the court’s comments are more of a more public rebuke than a meaningful step toward seat-size requirements. Still, it's a refrain that likely strikes a chord among many coach-class fliers.

It all came after Flyers Rights called on the FAA to enact seat-size standards, arguing that narrower and tighter seats has become a safety risk in an evacuation and a health risk for passenger such as deep-vein thrombosis.

However, the FAA rejected Flyers Rights’ request, noting it already requires airlines to prove they can get everyone off a plane in 90 seconds in an emergency and bases its seating policies based on that.

But the court hearing the complaint wasn’t entirely moved, according to USA TODAY’s Bart Jansen, who has the full breakdown of the story.

Jansen writes:

“A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled Friday that the FAA offered a ‘vaporous record’ of evacuation tests with ‘off-point studies and undisclosed tests using unknown parameters’ in justifying not regulating seat size. The court ordered FAA to provide a ‘properly reasoned’ explanation of its evacuation standards.:

“ ‘This is the case of the incredible shrinking airline seat,’ Judge Patricia Millett wrote in the 23-page decision.”

FlyersRights president Paul Hudson called the court’s decision "a very rare reprimand” for the airline industry.

“What I think legally is unusual about the case is that the court found that the evidence that the FAA gave for the denial was essentially fake," Hudson said to Jansen on Monday.

What’s next? The FAA said Monday that it’s considering the ruling and any actions it must take to address the court’s request.

“The FAA does consider seat pitch in testing and assessing the safe evacuation of commercial, passenger aircraft,” FAA said in a statement to USA TODAY.

Copyright 2017 USA TODAY. All rights reserved. From By Ben Mutzabaugh.
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