A US appeals court heard arguments from a flyer advocacy group calling on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to set a minimum seat dimension requirement for passengers traveling on airplanes.
This comes after Congress ordered the FAA in 2018 to establish minimum dimensions for passenger seats by 2019. The FAA says it has reviewed the issue but has not found a “safety need for minimum seat dimensions.” In addition, the FAA cited that requiring a minimum seat size would cost airlines millions of dollars as aircraft would have to be reconfigured to accommodate the requirement.
Michael Kirkpatrick, a lawyer for the organization Flyer Rights, said “Currently, there are no minimum seat dimensions. Maybe they’re going to codify the current seat dimensions and status quo for all conditions required for safety, then maybe there’ll be a challenge on the merits. But the point here is that there is no regulation now on seat pitch, width or length.”
In court, the Justice Department argued that the FAA does not need to enforce a policy if it does not protect passenger safety. Since 1973, seat width in US-based airlines has decreased an average of 1 inch, and pitch has shrunk between 3 and 7 inches.