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 FlyersRights.org 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 The Court rebuked the FAA for improperly relying on studies that were irrelevant, outdated or not in the record to conclude that seat size did not affect safety.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 FlyersRights.org 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 FlyersRights.org 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."
FlyersRights.org is the largest airline passenger organization with over 60,000 members. It provides information and expertise to the Government and the public, advocates for airline passenger rights, publishes a weekly newsletter and operates a toll free hotline for airline passengers 877-FLYERS6.