Flyersrights.org, a passenger rights groups, emerged from a court on Friday with a grin. A judge had just handed them at least a partial victory in their effort to prohibit airlines from further shrinking seats.
No, airlines will not be forced to increase seat pitch and seat width, at least not right now. Instead, the ruling forces the FAA to conduct new safety tests to ensure that passengers can rapidly evacuate in case of emergency.
When flyersrights.org (which also was a leader in the tarmac delay regulation) filed suit it in 2015, it alleged that shrinking seat pitch plus the growing girth of Americans created a dangerous combination. The FAA rebuffed, with the Obama Administration arguing that numerous safety tests demonstrated passengers can still escape quickly during an emergency.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia questioned the testing, stating some were outdated and other referenced but not included on the record. In requiring new tests, the court does not preclude the FAA from submitting the new tests then again closing the door on any further seat pitch/width regulatory discussion. Instead, it simply requires more clarity behind its decision making.
Why You Should Be Opposed to Regulating Seat Size
It sounds nice on the surface, right? More legroom for everyone!
But Gary lays out the practical results of this move–
They would effectively outlaw business models like Spirit’s, Frontier’s, and Allegiant’s. These airlines drive down pricing that legacy carriers have to match.
Without ultra low cost carriers many people wouldn’t be able to afford to fly. Some blog readers, and I, would still fly. This redistributes from the poorest Americans to those better off.
And it substitutes driving for flying which is less safe, a phenomenon known as statistical murder.
I deem this an air-tight argument, because if Spirit and Frontier are forced to retrofit their fleet with new seats and more legroom, they will close shop or hemorrhage money, and they won’t do the latter. Want more legroom and a wider seat? You can pay for it, even on Spirit. It is still cheaper than flying used to be.
And that truly is the point. We are in the golden age of airfare affordability and we must give LCCs much of credit for making flying affordable to the masses, including myself. Take away tight seat pitch and you close the door on millions to travel.
What do you think? Should federal law mandate minimum seat pitch and seat width?