Naperville Business Lawyer Discusses Court’s Order Regarding Airplane Seats

seats, Naperville business law attorneyOver the last few months, major airlines have been under increased scrutiny due, in large part, to several high-profile incidents. One passenger was forcibly removed from a plane by ground authorities while another passenger—a disabled woman—was dropped by the airline employee who had picked her up to take her to her seat. There have a number of others, and public opinion has not been the greatest.

As a business law attorney, I understand how a few isolated occurrences can affect an entire industry. Airlines, however, may have bigger problems than the occasional customer service faux pas. In recent years, airline passengers across the nation have noticed that their seats seem to be shrinking. As it turns out, they are not imagining things, and a federal appeals court has ordered aviation officials to conduct a study on the issue.

Real Numbers

Seat pitch is the measurement from a particular spot on an airline seat to the same spot on the seat immediately in front of or behind the first seat. In the 1970s, the average seat pitch was 35 inches, or nearly three feet. Today, the average pitch is 31 inches and as little as 28 inches on some commercial airplanes—up to a 20 percent reduction. In the last ten years, the average seat width has also been reduced from about 18 inches to 16.5 inches. Critics believe that the reduction in seat size and pitch is a result of airlines trying to squeeze more passengers—and more dollars—onto each flight.

“The Case of the Incredible Shrinking Airline Seat”

Last week, a federal appeals court in Washington D.C. issued a ruling on a case that began with a request by a group called Flyers Rights. The group had asked the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to develop rules regarding minimum seat size and pitch. Their issue, according to court documents, is that tighter seating presents a hazard for passengers who must evacuate an airplane in an emergency. They also claimed that smaller seats lead to an increased risk of mid-air blood clots for certain people.

The three-judge panel unanimously decided that the FAA must conduct a new review to determine if setting minimum standards for seats is necessary. The FAA claimed that seat size does not affect passengers’ ability to evacuate in an emergency. “That makes no sense,” Judge Patricia Miller wrote in the court’s opinion. She compared the FAA’s assertion to doing “a study on tooth decay that only recorded participants’ sugar consumption” and not their dental hygiene.

Federal legislation is also being considered to address airline passenger safety. Seat standards are likely to be among the considerations being made by lawmakers.

Regulatory Compliance Help

Until the FAA steps in and creates new rules, airlines are under no obligation to make changes to their seats on their own. They are currently operating in compliance with federal regulations. If you have questions about regulatory compliance in your chosen industry, contact an experienced business law attorney in Naperville today. Call 630-756-1160 for a confidential consultation at The Gierach Law Firm and get the guidance you need.



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