Judges order FAA to investigate ‘shrinking airline seats’

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — In “The Case of the Incredible Shrinking Airline Seat,” a federal appeals court has ordered the Federal Aviation Administration to review smaller seat sizes on U.S. flights.

The Flyers Rights passenger advocacy group had asked the FAA to regulate seat size and distance between rows of seats in 2015, a request that aviation authorities refused to address because the concerns “related to passenger health and comfort…did not raise an immediate safety or security concern.”

According to Flyers Rights, the average distance between rows of seats is at 31 inches, down from 35 inches in the 1970s before airline deregulation. The average width of a seat has shrunk from 18 inches to 16.5 inches, the group argued.

The three-judge panel said the FAA did not cite any studies or tests to address the impact of smaller seat dimensions, including how smaller seat dimensions did not impact passengers’ ability to reach emergency exits, despite growing passenger sizes.

The FAA was ordered by the panel to review Flyers Rights’ petition in part.

“This is the Case of the Incredible Shrinking Airline Seat,” Judge Patricia Millett said in the ruling.

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