FlyersRights.org, an airline passenger rights organisation, has filed a petition in the US Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, seeking to order the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to issue minimum airline seat size standards. The statutory deadline for FAA action passed more than two years ago, but FlyersRights.org says the FAA has “not even started” this required rulemaking.
The FAA has not stipulated a standard for minimum leg room (seat pitch) or seat width on airlines. Meanwhile some airlines are fitting narrower seats at tight pitches in order to maximise cabin seat count, which when coupled with increasing passenger sizes, can pose safety and health risks, including for emergency evacuations, according to FlyersRights.org. The Department of Transportation Office of the Inspector General (DOT OIG) published a report in September 2020 detailing many issues with the FAA’s emergency evacuation policies.
A statement from FlyersRights.org reads: “In 2017, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with FlyersRights.org and ordered the FAA to provide its reasoning and evidence for denying the 2015 FlyersRights.org rulemaking petition. More than one year after this court decision, the FAA provided its second denial of the rulemaking petition. However, the 2020 DOT OIG report has since concluded that the information upon which the FAA based its 2018 denial was false and inaccurate.”
Paul Hudson, president of FlyersRights.org commented, “At some point, enough is enough. The FAA has had three years to address this important safety issue. As we have seen with safety certification, particularly with the Boeing 737 MAX, the FAA chooses to continue to act as a tombstone agency, only acting after fatal accidents occur.”
FlyersRights.org is represented in the current lawsuit by Public Citizen Litigation Group, USCA Case # 22-1004. The 2015 rulemaking docket can be accessed HERE.