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The case of the incredible shrinking airline seat’ now a safety concern

According to some airlines, the distance between rows and the width of your seat is a matter of comfort, not safety. These US federal judges disagree.

Flying today can be enough to give even the skinniest amongst us a butt complex and if you've got long legs, prepare to study your knees UP CLOSE for the duration of the journey. But is the seemingly never ending quest to squeeze more seats in a plane costing more than our comfort?



A US appeals court panel is calling for the country’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to consider the safety ramifications of shrinking seats and narrowing pitch, The Guardian reported.


"This is the case of the incredible shrinking airline seat," Judge Patricia Millett wrote in her ruling last week.


"As many have no doubt noticed, aircraft seats and the spacing between them have been getting smaller and smaller, while American passengers have been growing in size."


The FAA had refused to capitulate to a request by passenger body Flyers Rights to make rules regulating the width of airline seats and the distance between them (pitch).


Flyers Rights found that narrowing the distance between seats could pose dangers during possible evacuations, and, when combined with a seat’s shrinking width, could increase a person’s chance of developing vein clots.


When the court was presented with these findings, the three judge panel deemed the FAA’s  belief that comfort, not safety, is compromised by shrinking seats was derived using outdated or irrelevant tests and studies.


“We applaud the court’s decision, and the path to larger seats has suddenly become a bit wider,” a Flyers Rights spokesperson told the Guardian.


The FAA is now reportedly considering the ruling and its next steps, though a spokesperson for the agency said the FAA considers the spacing between seat rows when testing to make sure airliners can be evacuated safely.


Written by: Gaya Avery
Published: 31 July 2017

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