US rulemaker argues airline seat size not its responsibility

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A US airline flyers lobby group is considering an appeal against a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) decision that the FAA is not responsible for legislating on seat sizes, according to a Washington Post report.

The FAA has said there is ‘no evidence that a typical passenger, even a larger one, will take more than a couple of seconds to get out of his or her seat,’ and hence seat spacing did not affect safety or speed of evacuation.

The argument of flyers’ rights groups is that safety in an emergency may be compromised because both the width of seats and the distance between rows has decreased on many airlines, while the size of the average passenger has increased.

But the FAA told the Flyers Rights group this week that ‘the time it takes passengers to get out of their seats, even if those seats are relatively narrow and close together, is less than the time it takes for the emergency exists to begin functioning and for the line that begins forming in the aisle to clear.’

The article quotes Professor Brent D. Bowen, of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University as saying, ‘this is like a carte blanche to let the airlines do whatever they want. It is a free ticket to narrow seats and put in more rows of passengers.’

‘I think it’s causing people to be grumpy, irritable, and literally there’s cases where people don’t fit in the seat in the back of an airplane. I’ve seen it and it’s quite embarrassing when you don’t know that some seats are bigger than others.’

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