WASHINGTON — The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington D.C. on Friday ordered the Federal Aviation Administration to review claims by advocacy groups that shrinking airline seats have created a potential safety hazard for passengers.
Judge Patricia Millett rejected the FAA’s argument that seat size was not a factor in getting off the plane in an emergency.
“This is the Case of the Incredible Shrinking Airline Seat. As many have no doubt noticed, aircraft seats and the spacing between them have been getting smaller and smaller, while American passengers have been growing in size,” Millett wrote in her ruling.
According to advocacy group Flyers Rights, the average width of airplane seats has decreased from 18.5 inches in the early 2000s to 17 inches by 2005. The average seat pitch, meaning the distance between seat rows, has declined from an average of 35 inches to 31 inches, and is even as low as 28 inches on some airlines.
Under the current FAA regulation airlines are free to determine the size and space of seats but the arrangement must allow all passengers and crew to evacuate within 90 seconds.
American Airlines plans to order new Boeing 737 jets with just 29 inches of seat pitch in the last three rows in economy in order to make room for an extra row of premium seats towards the front of the plane, according to the Guardian.
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