FlyersRights is challenging the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) decision to not set a minimum airline seat size.
Last Friday, we argued in front of a panel of DC Circuit judges that the FAA needed to put up or shut up regarding the airline manufacturers’ “secret evacuation studies” that say current seat sizes are safe.
FlyersRights argued without any FAA rules, airlines will keep shrinking seats in pursuit of higher profits.
FlyersRights explained during the hearing that seat pitch and width have shrunk over the past decade, endangering the emergency evacuation process and cramming too many passengers into too tight a situation, creating a risk of blood clots and deep vein thrombosis.
The FAA has evaded the publication of a study sought by FlyersRights that shows planes could be evacuated in 90 seconds, as required. This is because aircraft manufacturers claim it contains proprietary information. But FlyersRights argued there are well-established methods of entering the information into the court record without endangering trade secrets.
“They can’t point to either a physical demonstration or computer simulation where this factor has been taken into account,” FlyersRights attorney Joseph E. Sandler of Sandler Reiff Lamb Rosenstein & Birkenstock PC said. “They say it has, but it’s secret evidence, they can’t show us the study.”
The FAA also dodged blood clot concerns, saying it’s not the agency with oversight over those sorts of health issues.
Paul Hudson, president of FlyersRights, told Law360 about 10 percent of passengers already can’t fit into regular coach seats and airlines plan to push further to create what he dubs “torture class.”
He noted that the panel had shown interest in getting affidavits from passengers who have posted complaints to public forums after it said FlyersRights hadn’t produced specific enough complaints to warrant consideration.
U.S. Circuit Judges Janice Rogers Brown, Patricia Millett and Nina Pillard sat on the panel for the D.C. Circuit.
FlyersRights is represented by Joseph E. Sandler of Sandler Reiff Lamb Rosenstein & Birkenstock PC.
The federal defendants are represented by Benjamin C. Mizer, Mark B. Stern and Karen Schoen of the U.S. Department of Justice and FAA in-house counsel Lorelei Peter.
The case is Flyers Rights Education Fund v. FAA et al., case number 16-1101, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.