By Paul Riegler
A federal appeals court judge on Friday told the Federal Aviation Administration to once again review whether smaller airline seats endanger passenger safety on aircraft.
The agency had denied a 2015 petition by FlyersRights.org, a passenger organization, to enact rules that would stem the tide of shrinking airline seats.
Judge Patricia Millett, a member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, referred to the matter as “The Case of the Incredible Shrinking Airline Seat” and rejected the FAA’s argument that seat size had little if any bearing on the time it would take to evacuate a plane in an emergency.
“That makes no sense,” Millett wrote in her ruling for the three-judge panel, comparing the issue to doing “a study on tooth decay that only recorded participants’ sugar consumption” while ignoring brushing and flossing.
The unanimous ruling requires the FAA to conduct a new review of the question as to whether smaller seats, less distance between seats, and larger passengers could have an adverse impact on emergency egress.
Many airlines have been steadily reducing the amount of seat pitch in coach in recent years, leading to complaints by passengers and public-interest groups.