The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals granted Flyers Rights and airline passengers a victory, ruling that the FAA had no reasonable basis to refuse to institute rulemaking over ever-shrinking seat sizes. The FAA relied on studies that were either irrelevant, outdated, or not included in the record or under seal. The Court rebuked the FAA for having no reasonable basis for its refusal to rulemake and remanded the case back to the FAA to review Flyers Rights’ petition.
Flyers Rights petitioned the FAA in 2015 to place a moratorium on shrinking seat sizes and to create seat size standards. Seat pitch and width have been shrinking while Americans grow taller and wider. These factors pose a safety threat, most notably for emergency evacuations. The FAA has not conducted, or alternatively has not released, any tests, whether computer simulations or rehearsed evacuations, that demonstrate that planes with modern seat sizes and modern passenger sizes would pass emergency evacuation criteria.
The D.C. Circuit’s opinion can be found here.