'Incredible shrinking airline seat' gets rebuke from US Court of Appeals

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Strategic Aviation

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'Incredible shrinking airline seat' gets rebuke from US court - Bloomberg

The US Court of Appeals in Washington, DC, on Friday ordered aviation regulators to consider setting minimum standards for the space airlines give passengers.

The court found in favour of Flyers Rights, a nonprofit advocacy group, which had argued that steadily shrinking legroom and seat size created a safety hazard and the Federal Aviation Administration should impose new restrictions.

The FAA said in an emailed statement that the agency "does consider seat pitch in testing and assessing the safe evacuation of commercial, passenger aircraft. We are studying the ruling carefully and any potential actions we may take to address the court's findings."

The long-term impact of the court rules remains unclear. It stopped short of ordering FAA to create new rules, so the agency could conduct a review and decide not to act.

In a statement last May, the agency said it had already conducted evacuation tests on the smaller seat configurations to ensure they are safe. The agency has no rules on seat width or the distance between rows, relying instead on the evacuation standards.

In part because full-scale evacuation tests have resulted in serious injuries, the FAA and other agencies have in some cases allowed manufacturers to substitute computer simulation and more limited tests.

In its response to the suit, the FAA cited earlier evacuation studies on seat rows placed as close as 71 centimetres apart to argue existing rules were adequate to protect safety. However, the agency declined to release those studies to Flyers Rights or to the court, arguing they contained proprietary information from manufacturers.

"The problem here is that the administration has given no reasoned explanation for withholding the tests in their entirety, and it has declined to file them under seal or in redacted form," Judge Millet said in the ruling.


Related - SEAT ACT: Top Senators Sponsoring Bill to Outlaw Low Cost Carriers, Raise Airfares - View From The Wing.
 

samh004

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Even if there were minimums imposed through law, they wouldn't be that great. I'm sure there'd be a fair amount of lobbying before the bill was passed ;)
 

MEL_Traveller

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I think the bigger issue is that of emergency evacuation... apparently some regulators are allowing manufacturers to do computer simulated exercises rather than using people. Perhaps this is understandable given the potential for injury in a live situation... but a fully computerised simulation may not replicate real life. People take baggage for example.

Aisles are getting narrower (ten abreast on the 777). Seats are getting closer together. Is it still safe?

If the airlines want to lobby against a minimum pitch, let them demonstrate safety with the current offerings.
 

Melburnian1

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Are there no implications for Australia, or will regulators such as CASA study what may occur there (given the USA's stature as - correct me if I'm mistaken - the most highly patronised domestic air network worldwide, even if the major airlines there don't have great reputations for the standard of onboard amenities or service from cabin crews) and eventually decide to follow what( (if anything) the USA mandates?
 

juddles

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The number one force driving ever restricted seat pitch and width is the passengers habit of buying based on lowest price.

Airlines just have to survive.
 

MEL_Traveller

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Are there no implications for Australia, or will regulators such as CASA study what may occur there (given the USA's stature as - correct me if I'm mistaken - the most highly patronised domestic air network worldwide, even if the major airlines there don't have great reputations for the standard of onboard amenities or service from cabin crews) and eventually decide to follow what( (if anything) the USA mandates?

It may flow through. While safety requirements aren't necessarily uniform across all countries, the requirement to evacuate all pax in 90 seconds from half the exits is a common one. If studies show it can't be achieved in the USA it could have ramifications elsewhere, not least because airlines flying to the USA would likely need to comply.

Even if it does get regulated, airlines would argue the change couldn't be achieved overnight... and there'd likely be a significant time period for compliance. Outside of regulation (perhaps the authorities might change the standard from 90 seconds to 120 seconds for example), there might be an argument for negligence if the current seating meant pax couldn't actually achieve the 90 second standard, and that caused injury or death. If relevant you'd probably argue that under your claim under the Montreal convention.
 

MEL_Traveller

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The number one force driving ever restricted seat pitch and width is the passengers habit of buying based on lowest price.

Airlines just have to survive.

But by the same token Ryanair doesn't *have* to sell £1 fares. They do so to fill planes flying between places that no one ever wanted in the first place. They are creating demand, not necessarily responding to demand.
 

dajop

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But by the same token Ryanair doesn't *have* to sell £1 fares. They do so to fill planes flying between places that no one ever wanted in the first place. They are creating demand, not necessarily responding to demand.

I think £1 fares are just "clickbait". They sell £1 fares to upsell a myriad of other products which generate their profit.

I'd hazard a guess most Ryanair flight do have a desirable destination at one end of the flight at least, often that destination might be London. So you get all sorts flights between weird and wacky places that we've barely heard (at least those of us living outside of Europe) with reasonable catchments of locals to travel into major cities rather than necessarily the other way arou
 

docjames

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The number one force driving ever restricted seat pitch and width is the passengers habit of buying based on lowest price.

Airlines just have to survive.

AA proved with their "more room in coach" that the approach of providing more space at a slightly increased fare was a sure way to lose passengers.

Once one carrier jumps to a certain "size / density", pax vote with their feet and the others have to follow.

Look at QF fitting extra seats to their 738s, refitting the A380s with extra seats (less toilets/pax!). Pax were voting with their wallet so QF had no choice but to increase density to get per seat cost down to compete.
 

Strategic Aviation

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Price is of course a key issue and if more legroom means fewer seats then that would obviously have a significant, potentially massive, impact on airfares.

http://viewfromthewing.boardingarea.com/2017/07/29/federal-court-forcing-faa-reconsider-decision-not-regulate-seat-size/ said:
The reportedly astroturf group Flyers’ Rights wanted the Obama administration to regulate seat sizes so that airlines would have to offer passengers more room.

* They would effectively outlaw business models like Spirit’s, Frontier’s, and Allegiant’s. These airlines drive down pricing that legacy carriers have to match.

* Without ultra low cost carriers many people wouldn’t be able to afford to fly. Some blog readers, and I, would still fly. This redistributes from the poorest Americans to those better off.
 

MEL_Traveller

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I think £1 fares are just "clickbait". They sell £1 fares to upsell a myriad of other products which generate their profit.

I'd hazard a guess most Ryanair flight do have a desirable destination at one end of the flight at least, often that destination might be London. So you get all sorts flights between weird and wacky places that we've barely heard (at least those of us living outside of Europe) with reasonable catchments of locals to travel into major cities rather than necessarily the other way arou

i bought £1 fares, to places I didn't want to go. And travelled for £1. So did lots of others on the flights I was taking. Weekend breaks from London for next to nothing.

AA proved with their "more room in coach" that the approach of providing more space at a slightly increased fare was a sure way to lose passengers.

Once one carrier jumps to a certain "size / density", pax vote with their feet and the others have to follow.

Look at QF fitting extra seats to their 738s, refitting the A380s with extra seats (less toilets/pax!). Pax were voting with their wallet so QF had no choice but to increase density to get per seat cost down to compete.

AA was not more expensive than their competitors, they were either the same price, or cheaper as you'd expect with sales etc. MRTC was great for passengers, just the airline wasn't making as much profit as their competitors. To be clear, AA did not price with a premium, at least TA, and I was flying every month.
 

Strategic Aviation

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Aircraft seat size in the spotlight as House passes FAA reauthorization - Runway Girl (April 2018)

The US House of Representatives has overwhelmingly approved five-year FAA reauthorization legislation containing language that, if agreed by the Senate, would force the FAA to set minimum standards for aircraft seating.

Among a multitude of consumer and crew protection provisions outlined in the bill – including making it generally unlawful to involuntarily bump an already-boarded revenue passenger – the FAA would have one year to set minimum dimensions for “seat pitch, width, and length” as deemed necessary for the safety and health of passengers, and as proposed by Congressman Steve Cohen’s so-called SEAT Act.

The three-judge panel agreed with Flyers Rights on the point that the FAA “failed to provide a plausible evidentiary basis for concluding that decreased seat sizes combined with increased passenger sizes have no effect on emergency egress”.

The House’s FAA reauthorization bill does not stipulate what the minimum seat size standards should be.

In an interview with Runway Girl Network following the D.C. Circuit decision, Flyers Rights director of communications Kendall Creighton suggested that the standards for aircraft seat pitch and width should be 28 inches and 18 inches, respectively.

The 18-inch width goal is seen as unrealistic by many, since seats on a major industry workhorse – the Boeing 737 – are roughly 17 inches wide in the traditional 3-3 economy class layout. But Creighton told RGN at the time that the consumer group is not asking industry to “retroactively go back” and make seats bigger. It simply does not want to see further shrinkage.

The FAA could not provide immediate comment this afternoon on whether it has the data to support building aircraft seat standards now, or if it would require further testing should the Senate support the House’s version of the bill.
 
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roadrunner

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Try American Airlines new bathrooms of just 24' across. This is part of the article in Forbes written today. Seriously on a long haul flight the current bathrooms are a mess in economy, I can't see the logic in this design other than the "mile high club" will be a thing of the past. ; )
Seriously how would a larger person fit in this space, could be an ADA issue in the future.

But the latter case tells us that American Airlines officials believe – and may well be right – that they hold most or all of the cards and can get away with forcing 156 coach passengers to share just two lavatories that are so small a passenger only has room to wash one hand at a time. Indeed those restrooms are so narrow that passengers reportedly must decide before entering whether to walk in facing the toilet or to back in. That’s because once inside with the door closed there’s not enough room to turn around.
 

Strategic Aviation

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Try American Airlines new bathrooms of just 24' across.

One of Garry Leff's favourite topics.

Boeing 737 MAX Inaugural Flight: What American's New 'No Legroom' Plane Is Really Like - View from the Wing

American CEO Doug Parker: At Least We're Not Attaching Crew Seats to the Lavatory Doors - View from the Wing

American Airlines Pilot Says Their New Lavatory is 'The Most Miserable Experience in the World' - View from the Wing

I can't see the logic in this design

Free up room for more seats. Though AA's CEO seemingly tried to shift some of the blame to Boeing.

could be an ADA issue in the future.

They won't worry until it does.

The House bill addresses disabilities more generally:-

https://runwaygirlnetwork.com/2018/04/27/aircraft-seat-size-in-the-spotlight-as-house-passes-faa-reauthorization/ said:
Significantly, the House bill also calls for a feasibility study of in-cabin wheelchair restraint systems; and “the ways in which individuals with significant disabilities using wheelchairs, including power wheelchairs, can be accommodated with in-cabin wheelchair restraint systems”.

Disability rights advocates are eager to see industry explore ways in which disabled travelers can stay in their own wheelchairs, and have loudly championed the cause of late.

Additionally, the bill calls for a review of air carrier training policies related to properly assisting passengers with disabilities, an amendment proposed by Representative Jim Langevin.

Aircraft seat size is a disabled passenger issue as well, as smaller seats – with less living space – are seen as adding to the challenges faced by passengers with reduced mobility.
 
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