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Buy The Seat Of Our Pants

  Sept. 8 , 2015

We’re making waves in the airline industry.

FlyersRights is riding the groundswell of passenger resentment against moneymaking off their suffering in smaller and smaller airline seats.

As the airlines pack in more per plane, passengers are beginning to fight back and are are asking the federal government to step in to specify minimum seat standards for legroom and width to assure safety and comfort. This only requires ratification as part of the proposed Airline Passenger Bill of Rights.
That was the sentiment of more than 30,000 people who signed our seat-space petition, which was sent to the Federal Aviation Administration last month.
The petition points out that many airlines have installed narrower seats with less legroom to increase capacity. It asks the FAA to put a stop on any further reduction in seat space and to appoint a panel to come up with minimum seat standards.
The interior of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crash in 2013 at San Francisco International Airport. To increase profits, airlines have been allowed to insert rows of seats making the pitch substandard and deadlier from an egress and DVT standpoint on longer flights. Reuters

The indifference to passengers’ health and safety is astonishing.

The public may think the DOT or OSHA are protecting passenger health and safety, unfortunately, there are few people monitoring the weak requirements regarding seat space or egress.

Back in 2001 The Lancet published an analysis estimating that 1 million cases of DVT related to air travel occur in the US every year and that 100,000 of these cases result in death (Lancet, September 8, 2001, p. 838).

Of course today, with much tighter seating, the risks posed by air travel may be dramatically greater.
The airlines have done little to help. Many have put general flight-health advice on their websites and placed information pamphlets on in-flight health in the seat pockets.

Those airlines that do mention exercise advice almost never mention the words ‘deep vein thrombosis’.

One suspects that their motive is to forestall litigation rather than help their customers avoid the condition. The airlines are clearly in denial but a growing body of research is pointing to a major health problem.

Advocacy for seat reform is much needed considering the tens of billions made off of sardine seating every year. The DOT does not impose any standards for seat legroom, width or comfort.

Instead, the federal government allows airlines to put as many seats in a cabin as the companies want as long as the passengers have enough room to escape in an emergency within 90 seconds. However, as FlyersRights pointed out last week, the FAA permits the airlines to use computer simulated evacuation tests.

This ongoing, preventable plight of airline travel is an important issue for FlyersRights which has observed the steady decline over the last several years.

Airlines for America, the lobbying firm for the airline industry, has rejected the idea of legroom and seat width standards.
“We also believe that government should not regulate airline seat sizes, but instead market forces and competition should determine what is offered,” said Jean Medina, a spokeswoman for the airline group.
During the meeting, panel member and travel expert Charles Leocha said he was troubled that the government has adopted minimum space requirements for dogs traveling on airplanes but not for humans.

The ruling dogma of the airlines is ‘free market’

The airlines claim to draw legitimacy from the ‘free market’ theory that passengers want cheap seats, and therefore sardine seats.

Free markets, airlines say, are the best mechanism to allocate resources for the exchange of services. They believe markets without regulation, taxation or competition from government entities produce the best results.

Yet, the industry makes massive exceptions that rig the market and tilt the seller-buyer balance heavily in favor of the former.

The wave of consolidation that swept the U.S. airline industry has significantly reduced competition at many of the nation’s major airports, and passengers are paying the price in higher fares and fees, an Associated Press analysis has found.
Over the past decade, mega-mergers reduced nine large U.S. airlines to four – American, United, Delta and Southwest – with the result that travelers are increasingly finding their home airport dominated by just one or two players.
Meanwhile the campaign cash flows into the abdicating law-makers’ coffers from the likes of Boeing and Airlines for America.
Another point is how market forces work well for the traveler when there is clarity of what is offered. Think Uber vs Taxi.
The true price of an airfare and what it does and does not include is a mystery that changes often. The traveling consumer has a high bar to reach to find the level playing field.

History has proven that small numbers of people can successfully take on injustice and corporate abuses.

Thank you for signing the petition.

And, as always, thank you for your support of FlyersRights.

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