Yesterday a three judge panel of the Federal Appeals Court for the D.C. Circuit ruled that the FAA made procedural errors when it declined to regulate seat sizes.
The reportedly astroturf group Flyers’ Rights wanted the Obama administration to regulate seat sizes so that airlines would have to offer passengers more room.
- They would effectively outlaw business models like Spirit’s, Frontier’s, and Allegiant’s. These airlines drive down pricing that legacy carriers have to match.
- Without ultra low cost carriers many people wouldn’t be able to afford to fly. Some blog readers, and I, would still fly. This redistributes from the poorest Americans to those better off.
- And it substitutes driving for flying which is less safe, a phenomenon known as statistical murder.
Singapore Airlines long haul economy seat: head rest, foot rest, video on demand and a cup holder
Flyers’ Rights wants this because it would make planes more comfortable for those who can still afford to fly. They also make arguments about health and safety.
Dennis Schaal of Skift explained,
Flyers Rights, which played a prominent role in current tarmac rules, successfully convinced the court that shrinking airline seats, coupled with people being bigger, is a safety hazard because it would slow exiting the aircraft in an emergency and because of the dangers of deep vein thrombosis.
I’m pretty sure that’s the same chain of logic that Congress will use to balance the budget.
American Airlines Boeing 787 economy legroom
Flyers’ Rights doesn’t like 17 inch seat width (they have a problem it seems with the fuselage of a Boeing 737) in addition to pitch. They argue that passengers are getting fatter so reducing space makes evacuation in an emergency more difficult. That’s their nose under the tent for their desire for bigger seats — claims about safety.
However contra claims by Flyers’ rights, the Obama administration argued that evacuation tests had been conducted on planes with 28 inch pitch, that pitch alone doesn’t determine space for egress, and ‘deep vein thrombosis’ isn’t actually related to seat pitch.
The Court though ruled that the FAA erred in not marshaling sufficient research to demonstrate that safety wasn’t at issue when denying the petition to engagement in a rulemaking.
The FAA was not ordered to engage in a rulemaking. The FAA says they have the evidence to deny the request for rulemaking. So the court ordered the FAA to provide “a properly reasoned disposition of the petition’s safety concerns about the adverse impact of decreased seat dimensions and increased passenger size on aircraft emergency egress.”