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Petition to FAA Calls for Seat-Shrinkage Pushback

— September 7, 2015

sent a petition containing the names of over 30,000 flyers to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) chief Michael Huerta calling for set limits for airline seating.

The airline passenger rights group,, is attempting to stop a trend that has infuriated flyers for years. Last month, the group sent a petition containing the names of over 30,000 flyers to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) chief Michael Huerta calling for set limits for airline seating. This comes as airlines have increasingly narrowed seats and shortened the legroom between rows. Writing that “This decrease in seat size, coupled with the safety, health, and comfort of passengers, is the reason for this rulemaking petition,” the organization is requesting the FAA to come up with set standards on seat size, as well as issue a moratorium on seating size reductions, along with appointing a committee to oversee the process. Calling the seat shrinkage an “intolerable crisis situation,” the petition notes that the average seat pitch has been reduced in recent years from 34 inches to a current average of 31 inches, with that number reduced to 28 inches on some planes. The average airline seat is geared for people 5’10” and below, which is smaller than the majority of American males. The organization wants that standard enlarged to a size that 90 percent of the population can fit in comfortably.

For its part, the FAA has said that it has received the petition, saying that the agency will review it in the “appropriate time frame.” The Department of Transportation (DOT) does not set standard seating sizes for airplanes, mandating instead that the seating arrangement must allow for all passengers to be able to evacuate the plane within a 90 second timeframe. Last week, the DOT met with the Advisory Committee for Aviation Consumer Protection. Instead of requesting new seating standards however; the panel recommended that the DOT and FAA advertise seating dimensions for each individual airline on the departments’ web sites. One panel member who supports the seating petition, Charles Leocha, argued at the meeting that there are minimum standards set in place for dogs on flights, but not for humans. Leocha, disappointed in the committee’s failure to act on the petition’s recommendations, noted that there have been no evacuation tests for airliners with 28 inch seat measurements.

The airline industry’s largest trade group Airlines for America (A4A) has argued against the petition and seat-size requirements. Senior vice president of communications Jean Medina wrote that the organization believes that “government should not regulate airline seat sizes, but instead, market forces and competition should determine what is offered.” Another member of the DOT’s advisory panel, A4A attorney Dave Berg, believes that seat sizes among the various airlines “goes to the heart and soul” of airline competition, saying that it would be inappropriate for the government to interfere in the matter. Nonetheless, the advisory panel did recommend that the FAA should conduct “more realistic” evacuation testing, including that of planes that implement the 28-inch seat measurements.


Associated Press – Joan Lowy

Los Angeles Times – Hugo Martin

Refinery 29 – Courtney E. Smith

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