Flyers Rights Argues Case for Minimum Mandated Seat Size in U.S. Court of Appeals

September 13, 2022

FlyersRights.org, the largest passenger rights organization and advocate, argued in a U.S. Court of Appeals 3-judge panel that airlines should have a required minimum seat size by law.

A 2018 rule states that the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) "shall issue regulations that establish minimum dimensions for passenger seats…including minimums for seat pitch, width, and length, and that are necessary for the safety of passengers."

It has been nearly 3 years since the deadline for seat rules was established. The FAA has stated it views the statute as optional if it believes that seat standards are not necessary to ensure passenger safety.

Paul Hudson, President of FlyersRights.org, stated, "Congress and the public have made it clear that minimum seat standards are needed for passenger safety. Passengers have continued to grow taller, larger, and older while seats have continued to shrink. The FAA must examine how shrinking seats are jeopardizing passenger safety when it comes to deep vein thrombosis, emergency evacuation, and the brace position."

In January 2022, FlyersRights.org filed a petition with the court to set a deadline for the FAA to create a rule for minimum seat size. The FAA previously denied a 2015 petition from FlyersRights.org twice, claiming that seat size did not affect emergency evacuation times. However, in light of new evidence that has emerged since then, FlyersRights.org believes that a minimum seat size rule is now necessary to ensure passenger safety.

In 2017, the D.C. Circuit essentially called out the FAA for making its decisions based on undisclosed data instead of being more transparent about why seat size doesn't (and wouldn't) impact emergency evacuations.

FlyersRights.org will be filing comprehensive comments in addition to an updated rulemaking petition calling for seat standards that allow 90% of the public to safely fit in airline seats rather than the current 50%.

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