This was a non-starter from the beginning. There was no way a flyers-rights group was going to force the FAA to impose new seating standards for airlines. However, it's true that emergency evacuations are taking longer than before, so safety regulators will need to come up other strategies to speed evacuation times.
Hopes for more legroom in increasingly cramped airplane cabins were dashed when regulators, responding to a court order, said they found no need to impose new standards on airlines.
The Federal Aviation Administration, in a letter dated Monday, said the agency “has no evidence that there is an immediate safety issue necessitating rulemaking at this time.”
Research shows that tighter confines on planes isn’t what slows emergency evacuations, the FAA wrote in its response to Flyers Rights, the nonprofit citizens group that sued it, claiming evacuations could be hindered by tightly packed seating. Instead, exit doors are the choke points that slow evacuations, the agency wrote.
The FAA action is the latest move in a swirling controversy that has raised hackles from consumers and prompted attempts at legislation by members of Congress.
New slimmer seats have allowed airlines to cram extra rows onto planes, which prompted Flyers Rights to sue the FAA, charging it was creating a safety hazard.
Judge Patricia Ann Millett, writing on behalf of a three-judge panel, ruled in favor of the group in July 2017.
©2018 Bloomberg L.P.
Subscribe to Skift Pro
Subscribe to Skift Pro to get unlimited access to stories like these ($30/month)Subscribe Now
Photo Credit: A flyers-rights group wanted the FAA to impose new seating standards on U.S. airlines, including Southwest, pictured here. The FAA declined to do so. Southwest Airlines