When it comes to ever-shrinking airline seat sizes and legroom, the traveling public has a lot to say. In the three months since the Federal Aviation Administration asked the public for input on airline seat sizes, the agency has been inundated with 26,000 submissions before Tuesday’s deadline to send a comment.
A revealing detail: the word “torture” has been used by more than 200 commentators to denounce the lack of personal space in planes.
The FAA, which currently has no rules on seat dimensions, had asked the public if standards were needed to ensure safe evacuation in an emergency. In response, thousands of passengers not only complained about the physical stress of being crammed into smaller spaces, but questioned their ability to quickly leave their seats in an emergency.
“The current seats are too small for average Americans, myself included,” Emily Clarke told the agency. “I fear this will have a significant impact on my ability to evacuate the aircraft quickly in an emergency.”
The FAA requires airlines to be able to evacuate passengers within 90 seconds. According to a passenger advocacy group, only around 25% of passengers can fit into airplane seats that accommodate 90% of passengers.
Many US carriers reduced seat width to 17 inches from 18.5 inches, with seat pitch – a measurement from a point in a seat to the same point in a seat in front or behind – had fallen to 31 inches compared to an average of 35. On some carriers, this distance is 28 inches.
“Literally wedged into an aisle seat”
One parent described advising their children to fend for themselves if something went wrong and seated passengers were blocking their escape.
“As the years have passed and the seats have gotten smaller and smaller, I’ve definitely been in situations with my kids where I’ve told them that if there’s an emergency, they should feel good about themselves. jumping over rows of seats instead of exiting along an aisle because a passenger was literally stuck in an aisle seat blocking our exit,” Tiffany Farrell of Bradenton, Fla., told the FAA.
Some commentators have chosen to use the forum to denounce a system where only those who can afford more expensive seats can travel in comfort.
“Flying is a common mode of transportation, it’s nice to feel like a human being and not a sardine,” wrote Meghan Sexton of Bellingham, Washington. “The decency of having a modicum of comfort shouldn’t be reserved for the wealthy,” Sexton added.
Fewer seats, fatter Americans
Airlines have been cutting seat sizes for decades, even as Americans have gotten fatter.
In the United States, adults weigh more than in decades past, with more than 40% of the population obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The 2018 Congress directed the FAA to set size requirements for passenger seats that are necessary for passenger safety. The agency later found that seat size and spacing were not a safety concern in simulated tests in 2019 and 2020.
Consumer advocates and some lawmakers have argued for years that the FAA should consider other potential health risks passengers face by sitting in small spaces for the duration of flights.
But airline industry trade group Airlines for America had a different view, saying the relationship between safety and seat dimensions had been actively studied, finding “no basis” for new or updated regulations. “.