A consumer group, Flyers Rights, is seeking to have the courts compel the FAA to impose minimum seat size standards. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit heard this argument today.

The FAA was told to set standards. The authority of the FAA to promte safety controls should be limited to the extent that they aren't needed for safety. The FAA took public comments on the need for seat size standards. Most people who want rules want more space because they want to be safe.

You need to know what to look for.

  • The major U.S. airlines don’t offer less than 30 inches of “pitch” or the distance from seat back to seat back.
  • Frontier and Spirit Airlines both go as low as 28 inches.
  • If federal courts push the FAA to impose seat size rules, we’re not going to see changes to seat width. There’s really been no reduction in width on narrowbody aircraft. Boeing 737s, for instance, have been 3-abreast for decades.

Since most travelers are domestic travelers, they'll see either:

  1. No change. The FAA sets minimum seat size equal to status quo seat size, requiring at least 28 inches of pitch (or less).
  2. 29 or 30 inch pitch required. That has zero effect on Delta, United, American or Southwest. Instead it affects only the business models of the ultra-low cost carriers.

Boeing's narrowbody planes have about an inch of width out of their seats compared to the widebody planes. It is not likely that the FAA would overrule these seating configurations.

Major airlines will face less competition from low cost carriers as a result of the regulations that could be imposed on them. They would be banned from their business model. It would mean higher prices for the majority of passengers who are flying on mainline airlines.

JetBlue has said they will retrofit Spirit planes to match their interiors, if the acquisition goes through. There will be fewer planes if the merger closes. If you want to eliminate a chunk of the tightest airline legroom in a single swoop, you should support the federal government getting out of the way of the merger.

The FAA made procedural errors when it refused to regulate seat sizes, according to a panel of judges.

In general.

Some seats have to be removed from smaller jets because of a safety issue. The reason for removing them is different from why customers hate them.

In general.

The FAA requires U.S. airlines to start weighing passengers. The weight and balance of an aircraft needs to be calculated for safety reasons. The assumptions they've been using are no longer valid. People are... Americans are.

In airlines.