(NEXSTAR) – Airline passengers appear to be unsatisfied with the ever-shrinking size of their airline seats, according to thousands of travelers who are voicing their concerns with the Federal Aviation Administration.
The FAA began taking public comments on the possibility of a minimum standard size for commercial airline seating in August, in response to a Congressional mandate to further examine passenger comfort and safety in the event of an evacuation. As of Oct. 19, more than 13,000 respondents have chimed in, many of whom complained of narrow rows, small seats and insufficient legroom.
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One prominent politician, however, has recently urged passengers to make their voices heard before the Nov. 1 deadline, lest the FAA determine that no action is needed.
“Right now, the FAA is quietly seeking public comment on airplane seat size, and my guess is not a whole lot of consumers are chiming in or accessing the federal register,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), said in a statement obtained by the Staten Island Advance this week.
Schumer also appeared during a press conference on Sunday to reiterate the need for further public comment, and to share his own experiences with shrinking airline seats.
There is currently no requirement from the FAA for the minimum width, length or pitch (the distance between one seat and the seat directly in front) on passenger airplanes. The average pitch, according to Reuters, is somewhere between 30 and 31 inches, while the shortest belongs to Spirit Airlines at 28 inches.
In the early ’80s, when the average American was smaller, seat pitches varied from between 31 and 35 inches, according to FlyersRights.org, an advocacy group for airline passengers.
Congress had originally asked the FAA to evaluate airline seating and issue regulations for minimum seating sizes in Oct. 2018. The agency was given a year to comply, Reuters reported.
In response, the FAA performed a review and studied simulated evacuations. A report which included the findings was submitted in March 2022, at which point the FAA acknowledged that “additional data regarding evacuations could be valuable.”
The FAA, meanwhile, has only mandated that all passengers be able to evacuate within around 90 seconds “under simulated emergency conditions” which did not take into account children, the elderly or those with disabilities, according to the FAA.
FlyersRights.org had previously said the FAA would “continue to treat the statutory requirement as a low priority that it can ignore indefinitely,” Reuters reported.
Paul Hudson, the president of FlyersRights.org, now says the FAA has “crossed a new line” in its “veiled contempt for the bipartisan 2018 Congressional mandate.”
“The FAA and DOT can no longer deny, delay, and delegate away its responsibility to ensure airline seat safety,” Hudson was quoted as saying in a press release issued earlier in October after FlyersRights.org filed its own petition with the FAA to act on standard minimum seating requirements.
A representative for the FAA did not disclose additional details of the agency’s plans following the Nov. 1 deadline for public comment.
Passengers wishing to share their experiences and recommendations with the FAA can currently do so online, or via mail or fax.