Act Now! Send Your Airline Seat Size Comments to the FAA

By Scott Spangler on October 26th, 2022

If traveling from stockyard to stockyard on winged cattle cars is a fate just shy of death, drop what your are doing right now and click this link to the Federal Register: Request for Comments in Minimum Seat Dimensions Necessary for Safety of Air Passengers (Emergency Evacuation).

The comment deadline is November 1, 2022.

My apologies for the short notice, but I just discovered this request. Attempting optimism, it is my hope that if enough people share their opinions on the evolutional shrinkage of the airline seat that the FAA will abandon its inverse relationship to the evolutionary growth of the average human, especially in America.

I’m not holding my breath, however, because I refuse to wedge my 6-foot-5, 215-pound frame into an airline seat, especially now that I’m older. Closing out my sixth decade on the planet, my 38-in inseam no longer folds up like it used to, and investigating deep vein thrombosis, blood clots often created by extended immobility in cramped environments is not something I’m eager to investigate.

After decades of complaints (not to mention seemingly unprovoked cabin violence that has blossomed during the pandemic), Congress told the FAA it has to come up with rules for airline seat dimensions, including width, length, and pitch. That last one is measured from a fixed position on one seat to the same position on the seat in front of it.

These measurements vary by airline. For the major US carriers, the width ranges from 17 inches to 20 inches. Pitch ranges from 28 inches to 38 inches, with the extra room costing you more money. If you want to learn how much room you will not have before buying your ticket, visit SeatGuru, which lets you explore the configuration of 1,278 aircraft.

Responding to Congress, the FAA chartered the Emergency Evacuation Standards Aviation Rulemaking Committee to gather the needed information. The information included a report of the Civil Aerospace Medical Institute’s simulated emergency cabin evacuations, which certification requirements must be accomplished in 90 seconds after the airliner comes to a complete stop.

In a March 31, 2022 letter to Congress, the FAA reported that “The ARC reviewed nearly 300 real-world evacuation events that occurred over the previous decade. The ARC found the overall level of safety in emergency evacuations to be very high, but made 27 recommendations to the FAA related to how the safety of such evacuations could be improved.”

In late 2019 to early 2020, the FAA “conducted simulated emergency evacuations at the Civil Aerospace Medical Institute (CAMI). In these tests, seat size and spacing did not adversely affect the success of emergency evacuations.” But these were not real-world simulations because “the CAMI tests relied on able-bodied adult subjects under age 60, consistent with regulatory and ethical standards for human testing. As a result, they provide useful, but not necessarily definitive information, regarding the effects of seat dimensions on safe evacuations for all populations.”

It would be interesting to see the results if the FAA selected its simulated evacuation participants from any TSA cattle car queue in the country. With that, if you’ll excuse me, I need to share my opinions with the FAA. I hope you’ll do the same. – Scott Spangler, Editor

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