FlyersRights.org, the largest airline passenger rights organization, has filed a petition in the U.S. 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; however, the FAA has not even started this required rulemaking.
Currently the FAA has no standard for minimum leg room (seat pitch) or seat width on airlines. Shrinking seat sizes coupled with increasing passenger size can pose safety and health risks, including for emergency evacuations, according to FlyersRights.org and other health and safety experts. The Department of Transportation Office of the Inspector General (DOT OIG) published a report in September 2020 detailing the many issues with the FAA’s emergency evacuation policies.
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.
FlyersRights.org President Paul Hudson 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.