FAA to Passengers: Shrinking Airplane Seats Aren’t Our Problem
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
Unless you have the luxury of traveling first and business class for every flight, you know the pains of sitting in a cramped airplane seat with little wiggle room, a too-close-for-comfort distance from your neighbor.
The debate about whether airplane seats are too small and if the Federal Aviation Administration has the power to change that has been on-going for years. But the FAA is less concerned with how you fit in the seat and more concerned with whether or not you can evacuate a plane in 90 seconds in the case of an emergency.
Despite demands from the nonprofit airline consumer group Flyers Rights to add federal regulation to seat size and U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Judge Patricia Millett’s order to reconsider their decision, the FAA said Tuesday the debate over the “The Case of the Incredible Shrinking Airline Seat” is not their domain.
Judge Millett noted in her case that “aircraft seats and the spacing between them have been getting smaller and smaller, while American passengers have been growing in size.” She’s not wrong — airplane seat size has been decreasing for decades. Since the 1970s, economy-class seat pitch has decreased from an average of 35 inches to 31 inches, and even to 28 inches in some low-cost carriers, such as Spirit Airlines. Meanwhile, as seat sizes shrink, Americans’ waists grow.
The average waist circumference for American adults aged 20 and over is 40 inches for males and 38 inches for females, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
FAA’s Senior Technical Specialist for Aircraft Cabin Security and Survivability, Jeffery Gardlin, declared Tuesday that there is no significant evidence proving that seat width and pitch in combination with passenger size has impeded passenger evacuations. “Barring injury to the passenger or the flight attendant, the time it takes a passenger to stand up from the seat will be less than the time it takes the flight attendant or another passenger to get the emergency exits opened and functional,” Gardlin stated.
The FAA also stated that they have seen no evidence that the “girth” of average Americans severely delays their ability to evacuate the aircraft or create an evacuation issue.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn a $200 statement credit after your first Delta purchase within the first three months. Offer ends 7/28/21.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles after spending $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months and a $200 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
- Limited Time Offer: Plus, get a 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months from the date of account opening, then a variable 15.74%-24.74%. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
- Accelerate your path to Medallion Status, with Status Boost®. Plus, in 2021 you can earn even more bonus Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) to help you reach Medallion Status.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees