The FAA has ordered removal of some seats from smaller jets because of a safety issue. They’re seats that customers generally hate, but the reason for the removal is different than why customers hate them.
Airlines use uncomfortable slimline seats with less padding to move seats closer together while maintaining a minimum amount of legroom. The safety issue that’s been identified with “‘Slim’ or ‘Slimplus’ seats made by Zodiac Seats California LLC” used on smaller planes is not how close the seats are together. Instead it’s how this specific seat creates a risk of neck injury in the event of a crash.
Videos reviewed by the FAA and Brazil’s civil aviation organization found that in a collision, a passenger might slide down the seat with the chin to hit the tray table on the seat ahead in a way that seriously injures the neck.
This issue appears to affect American, Delta, United, Republic and SkyWest operating Boeing 717; MD-90; Bombardier CRJ7, CRJ900, and Q400s; and Embraer ERJ170 and E190 aircraft.
The FAA estimates the cost of compliance with their airworthiness directive at about $900,000 … but they’re literally just estimating the cost to remove the seats and not to purchase or install replacement seats. So naturally airlines are unhappy with the costs they’re going to be forced to incur.
[T]he FAA didn’t include replacing the seats in its estimate. Airlines, including some from other countries worried about meeting the standard, complained it would be uneconomical to fly with fewer seats on their planes.
SkyWest Airlines of St. George, Utah, for example, said it would cost $250,000 to $500,000 to replace the seats on each of the 120 affected planes in its fleet. SkyWest is a regional carrier that operates feeder flights for the USA’s four biggest airlines: American, Delta, United and Alaska.
Airlines are being given 5 years to remove the estimated 10,482 of these seats currently flying on US airlines.
Zodiac, SkyWest and Delta requested that the FAA allow for modifications to the seats instead of replacement. The FAA “refused to delay the order, but said if Zodiac develops a remedy short of removing the seats, it could be approved at that time.”