A U.S. appeals court on Friday rejected the application for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to set minimum airplane seat size and spacing standards, disappointing airline passengers who had been experiencing discomfort in small seats, Reuters reported.
It was determined by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals that the advocacy group FlyersRights.org could not coerce the FAA to enforce seating requirements because it was not “clear and indisputable” that closely packed seating presented a safety risk, despite being uncomfortable.
The FAA was given a year by Congress in 2018 to set the minimum seating dimensions that were “necessary” for passenger safety, including pitch, or the distance between seatbacks.
There are currently no such regulations, but airlines are required to be ready to evacuate passengers in an emergency within 90 seconds. If carriers were required to reconfigure aircraft, airline margins might be impacted.
Circuit Judge Justin Walker, writing for a three-judge bench, dismissed FlyersRights’ claims that congested seating materially slowed emergency exits and presented health risks like blood clots, saying the FAA lacked compelling proof of either.
“To be sure, many airline seats are uncomfortably small. That is why some passengers pay for wider seats and extra legroom,” Walker wrote. “But it is not ‘clear and indisputable’ that airline seats have become dangerously small.
“Unless they are dangerously small, seat-size regulations are not ‘necessary for the safety of passengers,'” he added.
According to Reuters, FlyersRights has been urging the FAA for new regulations for airplane seat size.
“Even rules codifying the status quo would stop seat dimensions from getting even smaller,” FlyersRights attorney Michael Kirkpatrick said.