Airline passenger group's lawsuit seeks to compel the FAA to establish the seat size minimums required by the 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act
WASHINGTON, Sept. 13, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- FlyersRights.org, the largest airline passenger organization, on Monday argued its case in front of a three judge panel in the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Section 577 of the 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act states that the FAA "shall issue regulations that establish minimum dimensions for passenger seats…including minimums for seat pitch, width, and length, and that are necessary for the safety of passengers."
Nearly three years have passed since the 2019 deadline for this rulemaking. The FAA has stated it views the statute as optional if it believes that seat standards are not necessary to ensure passenger safety. Paul Hudson, President of FlyersRights.org, stated, "Congress and the public have made it clear that minimum seat standards are needed for passenger safety. Passengers have continued to grow taller, larger, and older while seats have continued to shrink. The FAA must examine how shrinking seats are jeopardizing passenger safety when it comes to deep vein thrombosis, emergency evacuation, and the brace position."
FlyersRights.org filed a mandamus petition in January 2022, requesting the court to set a deadline for the FAA's minimum seat size rulemaking. The FAA previously denied a 2015 FlyersRights.org rulemaking twice, in 2016 and 2018, claiming that seat size did not affect emergency evacuation times. In 2017, the D.C. Circuit faulted the FAA for relying on secret data to reach its conclusion that seat size does not and would not matter for emergency evacuations. In 2021, the DOT Inspector General found that the FAA had falsely claimed that the secret evacuation tests conducted by airplane manufacturers had tested for shrunken seats, when in fact, only one test was conducted at 28 inches or lower.
The FAA is currently seeking comments about the effect of airline seat size on just one aspect of passenger safety: emergency evacuations. The FAA request for comment does not seek comments on other safety issues such as deep vein thrombosis and the brace position. To date, the FAA has received nearly 12,000 comments. The docket can be found at: https://www.regulations.gov/document/FAA-2022-1001-0001
FlyersRights.org will be filing comprehensive comments in addition to an updated rulemaking petition calling for seat standards that allow 90% of the public to safely fit in airline seats rather than the current 50%.
To view the DOT Office of Inspector General Report, visit https://www.oig.dot.gov/sites/default/files/FAA%20Oversight%20of%20Aircraft%20Evacuations%20Final%20Report%20-%2009-16-20.pdf
Michael Kirpatrick of Public Citizen argued the case for FlyersRights.org.
FlyersRights.org maintains up to date passenger rights information at www.flyersrights.org/know-your-rights/ and also provides passengers with legal information and appropriate contacts by phone, 877-FLYERS-6 and by email, email@example.com.
FlyersRights.org, established in 2007, is the largest airline passenger organization. It publishes a bi-weekly newsletter, operates a free hotline for airline passengers 877- FLYERS6, advocates for passenger rights and interests, represents passengers on the FAA Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee dealing with air safety and maintains a staffed office in Washington, D.C. See: FlyersRights.org or https://twitter.com/FlyersRights. Media line 800- 662-1859. FlyersRights.org, 4411 Bee Ridge Road, 274, Sarasota, FL 34233