A week before American Airlines announced their new business class suites with doors I reported that they had asked the government’s permission to install these seats.
You see, virtually everything on an airplane is more heavily regulated than you’d expect, even if you know that everything it highly regulated. For instance even giving out hand sanitizer to passengers required specific approval from the FAA. Some people mused that hand sanitizer could be flammable but the FAA had already considered and rejected that risk.
It turns out that seats with doors actually requires a specific regulatory exemption because regulations ban doors inside passenger cabins (like between coach and premium economy, or between premium economy and business, so airlines use curtains instead).
- Regulators don’t want doors in the cabin in case those inhibit egress during an emergency.
- So the airline had to ask the FAA to say that these doors aren’t like those doors, and besides they’ve granted other airlines the exemption already.
Credit: American Airlines
However the FAA didn’t just grant the pro forma request. Instead they refused to process it. The stated reason is that when American Airlines filed its petition, it did “not comply with the requirements of 14 CFR § 11.81.”
How was it deficient? The American Airlines electronic submission was on letterhead that did not include the carrier’s mailing address at 1 Skyview Dr, Fort Worth, Texas. It also did not list.. a fax number.
As the government explains, 14 CFR § 11.81 requires listing “[y]our name and mailing address, and, if you wish, other contact information such as a fax number, telephone number, or email address.” Since the FAA doesn’t know where to find American Airlines, and didn’t think to ask the agency’s own American Airlines Certificate Management Office, they declined to consider the request to place doors on business class seats.
This will be addressed. The FAA knows American well enough that they were able to send a letter informing them that sufficient contact information wasn’t provided. American has 30 days to provide the FAA with its address, and then they’ll consider the exemption to allow business class suites with doors on their new delivery Boeing 787-9 aircraft, new Airbus A321XLR aircraft, and retrofitted Boeing 777-300ERs, and other such planes as American shall decide.
To be sure, there is no rush. We won’t see these new seats until 2024. The actual letter from the FAA (.pdf) – which, not for nothing fails to include a date at the top – was written more than one month after American Airlines submitted its request.
It took the FAA over a month to reject consideration of American’s request for lack of a mailing. That is more time than American itself has to correct the letter, and longer than I’ve ever had to wait to receive a drivers license from the DMV.