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US House FAA Bill Would Set Minimum Airline Seat Size Requirements

A provision tucked into the US House’s FAA reauthorization bill would require the agency to regulate airline seat sizes. FAA said in early July there was no evidence that higher-capacity seat configurations would prevent passengers from evacuating in an emergency within the required minimum times. ( 기타...

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If the FAA mandates seat pitch due to 'passenger size' and does NOT revise standard weight and balance to reflect the SAME size passenger data.....then the FAA will be guilty of GROSS hypocrisy. Also, the same data used to establish minimum seat size will be used in litigation as soon as the first passenger dies during an accident based on performance data or emergency egress.

Mark me on that one
You know how this will play out, right? The airlines will "work with" the FAA to determine a seat witdh and pitch that protects the safety and health of the passengers and, 'lo and behold, the FAA will conclude that current industry minimum seat width and pitch is more than adequate and enshrine that as the required minimum.
I hate to say it, but I think you're right.
RECOR10 -1
I think that it is, and it is. We have options. If you are a typical morbidly obese American...well, buy two seats, fly first class or take a bus (with wheels). Maybe in a perfect world every seat will be like a Qatar first class will cost...well, as much as a fist class Qatar cabin!!! Everyone wins! (wait, or is air travel going to be deemed a "right"?)
I remember when Eastern Airlines went to a super slim line seat back that was pitched more upwards so they could get two more rows of seats in an airplane. I never could figure out the strategy back then when load factors were down and when you add more rows on seats you can not fill, your load factor gets even worse! The problem today is super large people need a super large seat, and they should have larger seats at a larger price and not inconvenience another person with blubber hangover.
Heck Yes! I haven't weighed under 200 lbs since high school. It's very tough to fit my 6'1" torso in a
UPGRADED SEAT" AA charged me for!
White Knight is so right! I rue the day that Jimmy Carter got rid of the Civil Aeronautics Board. The younger generation has no idea of how flying used to be pleasurable. It has become like Greyhound in the sky now. Stressed out flight attendants,rude, uncivilized passengers who should have flown caged on an air cargo flight! I fly asian carriers whenever possible as they have employees who consider it an honor to serve passengers in a friendly and courteous way. Unfortunately, I'm stuck with U.S. carriers domestically. It's obvious that packing passengers in with little personal space and way too much carry on luggage will affect emergency evacuations. Bring back the C.A.B. and restore sanity!
Too many youthful executives out to build their resumes. Is this the price of a poor economy? They will ruin the business for any corporation. If the customer did not fly at all, they could save a lot of fuel as well.
Outside of a small weight savings, I do not see the purpose of narrowing the width of a seat. A Boeing 737 has a 12' 3" diameter fuselage and by the time it is fitted out with trim on the inside, you have about an 11' area in which to put seats. There is absolutely no way they will get more than 6 seats across on one.

I still say that the airline industry should never have been deregulated. Tickets might cost a bit more, but we would not be treated like cattle and fewer people would be flying that probably should take a bus or drive themselves (such as those who put their stinky feet up on the armrests of the seats in front of them).
Define a 'bit'. Factoring in inflation, isn't the difference in fares well less than half of what they were during regulation?
With low cost carriers, flag carriers have dropped their cheapest priced tickets to draw the others, but with one exception for baggage, they all nickle and dime a customer for every little thing. I can remember flights running around $400 for a coach fare from coast to coast. Now, one can get a ticket for $145 for the cheapest flight on Delta and $146 for Southwest, but which one ends up costing more?

We no longer get meals on flights, bags are not free (save for Southwest), flag carriers now have multiple tiers for seats, in coach. If I have a choice to fly in a 737 or an Embraer, I'm gonna take the bigger plane, even if it is a few more dollars.

As far as a bit, it can be what a ticket actually costs without adding all those other fees on top of what they quote you. Like I said, charging more for fares means we do not have stinky foot putting her nasty feet in our faces due to wanting to stretch out into another row of seats.
If you want to ensure a company will go bankrupt, make sure they continue being oppressively regulation by the government. When the railroads were finally deregulated in more than a 100 years in the late 80's, nearly all of them were bankrupt.

Now, the government is going full tilt on over regulation of the trucking industry. Hardly anyone wants to drive anymore because they don't have the freedom they used to have 10-15 years ago.
Airlines will not go bankrupt by having a seat pitch that gives fliers a bit more room. Width wise, they will not get more seats in across as that tube cannot be made wider to accommodate another seat, even if they take out the interior panels (and who would want to fly on an aircraft outside of military aircraft that does not have such?), they would not get anymore room to add a seat. Setting the seat pitch may reduce the number of seats by one row depending on the length of the aircraft.

A Delta flight from ATL to LAX starts at $145.20 for a basic seat where you get stuffed in wherever there is an open seat when you check in at the kiosk, you do not get to interact with a ticket agent at the counter anymore after all, then the main ticket price is $483.80, Comfort+ is $641.80 and these are all coach seats. First Class is $2276.80 and you have to fly to Detroit first, that isn't even a non-stop flight (this is the most expensive trip via Delta on 9-12 one way).

Remove one row of seats from that 757 and charge the $400+ for such and give your passengers some comfort across the board. Those fares still do not include baggage charges which can be $60 or more depending on how many bags you have or how much they weigh. Want priority seating, pay another fee. They will not go broke.
You make it sound so easy, you should be running an airline!

Everything is simple to one who has never done the job....
Dang.. you can't edit a post. (Either way, first line should read "being oppressively over regulated by the government")
'Bout time!
It's about time; the FAA tried to cop out on this one. Airlines are too tight. Flying has changed a lot over the years. In the old DC-6s we weren't all cramped in. Maybe they should only sell seats to midgets?
My understanding was that the current law only allows the FAA to regulate safety, not comfort. This legislation authorizes the FAA to regulate beyond safety.
It is very easy for a lawyer to establish FAA has a say on pitch as that relates to emergency egress safety (not just confort) of hefty passengers, for the same reason they want recline off and tables folded during rte ung landing.

The airlines cheat by using only lightweight persons in their how-long-it-takes to get out tests.

However width of seat is purely comfort issue, unless they can show one seat added to each row increases time to get off the aircraft in case of fire. If th he calculation show the owner need to add one more door for these added seat,that will be dealkillee for this adding-extra-seats experments.
No argument, it does not even take a lawyer. As I stated, the FAA may regulate (and they do so, prolifically) air carriers for safety compliance. Once they established that there was not a safety issue, the only way for them to regulate seat pitch was to be authorized to do so by Congress, who had not authorized it yet.
““We believe market forces should ultimately determine whether the industry is meeting customers’ expectations, rather than government regulation,” McAfee said. “Travelers reserve the right to choose who they give their business to, which route best serves their needs, and which variety of service options they value most.”

Disingenuous at best. Since all airlines follow similar seating sizes we have but one option; paying more for suitable seat dimensions. THAT certainly fails to meet customer expectations.
Oh, yes! Paying more to get more is SO un-American!
It's very difficult to pay more to get more if "more" is sold out or not even offered. My wife recently drove from Virginia to Idaho and back, because there were no options but coach available.
It's just darn difficult to get anything if it is sold out. It happens even to coach service.

I looked at flights from Norfolk to Boise and there are lot of options for premium seating for next weekend during peak travel times. Availability does seem to be the rule.
Great, if you're in the Norfolk area, and if you're going to Boise. She was going from Northern Virginia to Spokane (where she'd get a rental and drive to her destination in Northern Idaho). Anything but coach was booked three months prior (and she tried to get her seats two months prior)
Even better! It looks like the free market must have fixed its problem already. There is a plethora of premium seating flights this coming Friday (peak travel time) from the northern Virginia area to Spokane. They even come with meals!

Driving from northern Virginia to Spokane looks like it sucks! 35 hours of continuous driving, (one way!) Everyone has their preferences, but I think I'd take sitting in coach for 6 hours (with a nice one hour break in the middle of the trip to walk around) over taking probably 3 days to drive practically across the country. Unless, of course, I just wanted to drive anyway and wouldn't fly, even if premium seats were available.
That would be wonderful if this were when she needed to travel.
It is about time Congress measured their asses (not the one that Jesus rode) and set minimum dimensions. Airlines have long pointed to measurements of the "average man" taken in the 1920's which showed a 5 foot 6 inch man of 140 pounds as the excuse for the tiny seats on planes today.
I do not like the psychological social control function involved. With this stuff they make the customer feel as if it is unreasonable to complain and also a second class citizen not worthy of expecting better treatment. Thus our standard of living is lowered, like going to jail.
Worse still, complaining can get you removed from the flight because you made the aircrew "feel uncomfortable".
If complaining means 'being threatening', yes, it happens. Provides a good lesson on how NOT to complain.
Yes that is such a joke. Just like W&B computations using 170lb average weight. Those days are long gone!
the fact that the faa doesn't state truthfully that more dense seating and larger humans flying, at the rate of over 90% occupied seats, that these folks can exit an aircraft in a real world emergency, is evidence the companies have too much influence, and the agency does not take the interests of the traveling public at any level, now or ever.
beilstwh 2
Exactly. When the FAA does the evaluation tests they always use young, healthy, slim, athletic people. Watch one of their testing videos. They make sure not to use a representative sample of the American people
Heaven forbid you has some sort of disability, visible or not with today's seats. I had to fly for 3 hours with a walking cast, and once I was seated, I could hardly twitch. I was worried about blood clots. FAA didn't consider that either when setting standards.
The problem is, there was no other option but to fly. The US doesn't have much in the way of train or bus transportation. That's why I love this web site. Since air travel is pretty much the only way to get around our large country, I like reading about how it's working (or not).
Actually, they did. They gave you the option not to fly in your condition.
I hope your comment was made in jest.
Mooooooooo....Nope, they don't! They fly on our taxpayer big easy jets like Pelosi and others do!
Your comment is strictly politically inspired. Sit On it. Your pitch is very narrow. Seek good for flying passengers. Leave your ideology in baggage claims.
Thank you.
jet4ang 3
What are you even doing here? Go to the media to preach your shit!
beilstwh 2
Incorrect. Only people in leadership positions get to ride military jets. The rest of congress fly's commercial jets.
Or you're REALLY rich and can afford the $10,000 per hour rate to fly in a personal jet. The direct flights from Sacramento to Washington DC (Dulles) are packed with politicians every week. The only downside is they usually take all the first class sets because they have a billion frequent flyer miles. And they got those miles by flying commercial.
btweston 0
Did you skip your ESL class?
ADXbear 5
Yea realistic seat size.. like 19 inches and 36 pitch..
I'm 6'7" and it's about impossible for me to fit in a seat unless I get an aisle and can "hang out". It is impossible on an Express Jet unless I get a emer row or bulkhead. SW used to be pretty good until they decided then needed to add another revenue. I think UA is about the worst...thank goodness I am a 1K and can get the Economy Plus seats.
I see a couple of possibilities. One, airlines start charging passengers by the pound and adjusting seat sizes based on weight. Two, the flight attendent's union might be able to get an OSHA rule passed making aisle widths adequate for actual walking. Three, Elon Musk's rocket travel works so well that the airlines have some competition. In other words, the situation is not going to improve, it's only going to get worse.
“Alison McAfee, a spokeswoman for Airlines for America, citing the FAA’s June 2 letter to, said FAA’s judgement that seating dimensions of US airlines “meet or exceed federal safety standards” was correct. “
So I must have missed something here! Just where do I find these federal safety standards pertaining to seat pitch and width?
That's the point of the house bill since there are none. The FAA has denied any rulemaking stating that current seat dimensions don't constrain passengers from safely evacuating aircraft under the 90 second requirement.
Tim Marks 10
To Ric's point, the 'standard' is based on a 5'6" 145 lb male passenger and of course there will be no problem getting out of your seat against the window. But put a normal American male today at 5'11" and 180 lbs and the 'formula' no longer works. Add in the 95th percentile (which is no even considered within the FAAs calculation) of a 6'4" 250 lb male as 5% of the mix (which I believe is far lower than reality) and getting out of your seat in an evacuation does not meet the criteria anymore. So having a written rule, as Highflyer stated, that meets the current population and not the fictitious 1920 average that seems to be used will finally make the airlines create more comfortable (and most importantly) safer travel.
Ken Lane 2
You do make a point.

Seat testing subjects versus W&B standards set. And, the latter was increased only after an issue with excessive weight aft of CG taking down a commuter aircraft years back.
I remember: too many Massachusetts fatties sitting in the same row. Think plane took off at Charlotte, and pilot immediately lost control to tail heavy.
Ken Lane 2
There was also an issue of more luggage than average.
G M 2
It was a US Airways express 5481. Improper maintenance on flight cables to controls caused crash. While weight was a factor it was more about ballance.
Link to NTSB Incident report.
Ken Lane 1
The weight was so great they could not get enough control surface effect to overcome the forward CG. Improper rigging of the cables was the base issue. weight was a contributing factor preventing recovery from a stall that should have otherwise been recoverable.
Try to imagine yourself as 6'5" and trying to sit in a standard uinited airlines seat, the physics don't work. Regulation is need to keep airlines honest
Yes, the seats are getting smaller but so are the lavatories. Enough room to squeeze in but not enough to turn around.
That is true. The new SWA 737-800s front lavs are so small there is absolutely no way 2 people could ever fit to join the MHC. Maybe that spec was by design. LOL
Who is in bed with who on this one it does not take a rocket scientist to know that the more people you cram into a small space the more confusion and difficulty it would be to vacate that small space in an emergency , what do we need a crash test to prove this? Maybe the idiots in the US House and the FAA need a crash course in common sense , DR Thousand St Augustine FL
Your arguments are not reasonable. What you say is true, but the application does not make sense. The more passengers, logically the longer it will take for an evacuation. One passenger per exit (Maybe 5 or 6 passengers, total) and any more, the evauation time will increase. Do we limit passenger loads to one passenger per exit? Or perhaps we accept the double of the evacuation time and allow the airlines to fill the plane to two passengers per exit.

bottom line, just because adding more passengers increases evacuation time, if you judge any increase to be bad, you are stuck at a limit of one passenger per exit, 5-6 passengers per flight. Yes, plenty of room!
Ken Lane 2
As much as I hate small seats I hate more government regulation and interference with the free market far more.
Since years of regulation and industry actions mean there is no free market in air travel perhaps this is a situation where more regulation would be useful.
From an economic perspective, the airline market is very close to a free market. Airlines set their prices without interference and customers select freely from that pricing, considering the value of the product. The only problem I see is that when making a purchase, consumers cannot easily see the quality (seat comfort) that they are purchasing. Providing this would allow the market to become even more free. Regulation works against free markets.
But But But..... "I am from the Gubmint and I am here to "help" you"
I too, dislike government regulation, free market forces tend to work better, but are not perfect (hence the current situation). I think there are things that could be accomplished by regulations designed to assist the free market. I would love to see seats classified for comfort on a standard scale that would enable customers to predict their in-flight comfort experience. An A-F score would be sufficient. A requirement (regulation) requiring all airline tickets to be sold with the classification as clearly communicated as the price allow customers to freely make their own informed choices when purchasing airline seats. I would pay attention to the rating and it would weigh heavily into my buying decision.
Ken Lane 2
I'd prefer to see a standard of measurements that go back in history to see what is reasonable. Then, let the free market and a group like JD Power make it part of their evaluation of service. If they make seat size and comfort a major part of the service provided and it's publicized, that will get attention across the competitors.

But a congressional mandate? No. How well did that work out for their foolish mandate of an ATP ticket?

It never ends well when those with little to no knowledge on an issue get too much power and enforce their will upon others.
When all the choices come up "F" and you need to travel by air, what choice does the customer have?
Regulation came about b/c of unsafe/unhealthy/predatory industry behavior. Free markets don't really exist, never did in modern times, and shouldn't. I welcome new regulations for seats. Long overdue. I'm 6'8" and can't fly economy class unless I violate federal law - the person in front cannot recline their seat due to my size.
Knikwind 2
I hate mindless regulations, but being one of those obese travelers, I am in misery the whole trip, and agonize for any passenger next to me. I must have isle seat to hang out and get hit by cart a few times every flight. Can't remember the last time I lowered a tray table. Am middle class family man that can't afford premium seats, would so appreciate another inch here or there.
I thought 18" was pretty much the de facto industry standard.
Chris B 1
Just because the fat cats in Washington and their paymasters don't fit.
mdreilly 1
Why not just mandate that seats have to accommodate 90% of congressional representatives? Then we would end up with four across seating.
I would think that Airlines may eventually install "bunks" from floor to ceiling. Perhaps 5 bunks high by 4 across with narrow walkways (shuffle sideways) between rows. It would be quite efficient, much like stacking cord wood. They could advertise "Nap Time Flights."
Some airlines have, on a very limited basis. At least one airline has provided this for customers, but many provide this to their pilot crews on 10+ hour long overseas flights.
Dan:I don't hate free markets.But we are not talking a free market when all the airlines are on the same page and dictate what the cheap seats will cost ? When was the last time you flew the cheap seat for a 6 hour flight and smiled about all the money you saved.sadly the "World is no longer 170 lbs and 5' 9 " any more.
The study of economics tells us different. Free Markets will drive competitors to compete against each other on price, and prices will normalize to a similar level for products of similar value. If they did not, the companies charging higher prices would have no customers and go out of business.

Similar prices across carriers is a sign that the free market is at work.

I did a brief study of the difference of airfares between the regulated era (pre-1980) and the unregulated era (today). I compared 1979 ticket prices to two options today: The cheapest fares (small seats, no meals, luggage check extra) and premium tickets (large seats, meals, free luggage check.)

What I found was that if you wanted today what you got in 1979, you would pay a little less now, than you did in 1979 (inflation adjusted). If you were interested in the lower cost option, it was near 1/2 the cost as 1979.

What we have today in a free unregulated market is choices that we did not have in 1979, as well as almost exactly the same option as then.

What I here when I hear the complaining of free markets is either "But I'm being asked to pay for more and I don't like that", or "We can't be trusted to make decisions on our own and when we buy the cheapest fares we are unhappy, and the government could fix that by taking away our choices for cheap airfares."

I used to travel A LOT (American Platinum) and certainly appreciated the free upgrades, but I still routinely travel coach and am willing to save quite a bit of money in exchange for a smaller, less comfortable seat. Please don't play the tyrant and try to take that option away from me.
Would you say that the economy service you got in 1979 was about equivalent to today's premium economy offerings on domestic airlines?

Personally, a lot of the time I'd rather save the money and put up with discomfort, but there's times and lengths of flights when I'd rather pay for more comfort. It's nice to have the choice.

I wasn't doing a whole lot of flying in '79, but even in the 90's when I was in high school and traveled a little, there weren't nearly as many people flying as there are today. I think that flying has become more affordable by cheapening the product and experience. If the government regulates that premium economy seating (or something close to it) is the minimum standard, prices will go up, and the market will shrink.
Very similar. Meals on longer flights, larger seats, more attention to needs by flight attendants (back then we all called them stewardesses).
There’s another factor here and it’s demonstrated by the popularity of airlines like Spirit. When people will put up with that type of experience to “save” $20 on a ticket, you have to expect the worst. The business is all about butts in seats, and (even though business travelers and premium fares add to profit) it’s those butts squeezed into 17”/32” seats that pay the light bills.
jrollf 2
I'm willing to pay more for a comfortable seat... The problem is the airlines want a fortune for the 'better' seat, usually $500 to $1,000 more. What is now 'economy plus' is what use to be regular coach. 'Business class' is absurdly expensive, don't mention 1st.
That provided any "better" seats are even available. Some routes offer nothing but coach seating. Other routes offer business class or first class seating that is so limited in number that it sells out many months in advance. Your average non-business traveler quite often has little to no choices offered.
It is a pity united and others do not allow further recline angle for these better spaced economy plus seats.
Airline 0f America's Mcaffe must be smoking "Funny Stuff"if he thinks the Market will drive this issue !! >Every commercial carrier adheres to the same principle of the" Bottom line" ;so squeeze them in (unless you pay extra)So how does the consumer shop ? Comfort vs:price ;Or boycott the Airlines until they see the Wisdom" of considering the passenger's comfort....And meanwhile,they can choose the train,boat or car for their transportation needs until they (the carriers) do..FAT CHANCE !!
Why do you consider having the option of giving up comfort in exchange for a cheaper airfare an immoral thing? I like choice. when I shop for tickets, I see lots of choices to pay less for less comfort, and to pay more for more comfort. Are you a fan of taking these choices away from consumers? I would consider anyone taking choices (liberty) away from me, to be a tyrant.

The free market is working pretty well, unless you think you deserve to get something for nothing, in which case I can understand why you would hate free markets and believe that total government control of markets by big brother are the solution to the problem. Yes, we can't take care of ourselves; we will always make bad choices, unless big brother comes to our rescue and gives us what we want. All for free.
I don’t much care what Congress or the FAA mandates. The airlines might catch on whe we take our business elsewhere
I’m not a heavy or large person. So when I have an aisle seat and overhang 1/3 of the aisle and the Attendants can’t get past, I sort of don’t care.... I will make them work for their passage.
The FAA needs to get off their butts and put them in the seats we consumers have to deal with. I think they'll see it's gotten way out of hand. We pay for a comfortable seat and are humans, not sardines to be packed tight in a tin can. We pay the FAA salaries so do your jobs and mandate decent seat widths/depths/recline for all US flights. Then we can stop this nonsense, otherwise you can tell the airlines we are going to promote high-speed trains, subways, busses and even aero-cars. We won't stand for this ill treatment any more.
1. FAA employees do routinely fly commercial, and since they are government workers their pay is no higher than the general public and they fly coach like everyone else.
2. The FAA has been authorized by Congress from the beginning to regulate safety. Until this new legislation, that was all that they could legally regulate. Comfort was not part of their Congressional authorization. To do what you suggest would have been illegal and would have been shut down by the judicial system in a moment for being so.

When you don't know what you are talking about it would be sensible not to take such a harsh tone with others trying to do their best with the authority they have been given.
Thanks for knowing so much about the FAA and the history lesson. Just because someone uses a harsh tone doesn't meant they don't know what they are talking about. As a consumer I know exactly what I'm talking about and it does partially have to do with safety, health of the consumer to be exact. You are welcome to your opinion as I am to mine. Could it be you are the one who doesn't understand and can't read. I said nothing about their pay being higher, I said we pay their salaries, completely different idea. Since we do they are suppose to look out for our interest. Packing more people on a plane with the same number of exits does present a safety issue but the FAA doesn't seem worried about that either. Seats so narrow that and lack of proper leg room presents a health safety hazard but the FAA doesn't address such things saying it's a comfort issue. The FAA is an important agency but like many others, they have become lax in some areas. I applaud your effort to stand up for them but advising others about what they say and what tone to use isn't keeping with our freedom of speech. It would be better if you just said I don't agree with you and let it go at that.
Hmmm. You feel so free to criticize people at the FAA and me, and then you tell me I am wrong to criticize you. Does that sound hypocritical to you? If you can't take it, don't dish it out.
I could take narrow seats if they'd give me my own armrest. I hate being touchy feelie with my neighbor.
it is a fact that seats are getting smaller and people are getting would not hurt the airlines to add back that extra couple of inches!!


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