Flyers Rights v FAA OPINION 7-28-2017

    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 The FAA relied on studies that were either irrelevant, outdated, or not included in the record or under seal.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.



20 comments on “D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Grants Victory to Flyers Rights

  • I just found your web site. I am so glad that you are working to oppose the race to the bottom in public air travel among U.S. airlines.

  • Not hopeful legislators or courts will take the side of passengers against airlines but they SHOULD. I fly a well known airline at least 2-3 times per year and most of the time without issue. However, on a recent trip, the leg room was so narrow, for the first time ever I could not get carry on under the seat on this plane. And, if I have a middle seat (which mostly do because the aisle, window seats are hard to come by) I literally have to cross my arms on my lap to stay within my seat parameters. I am not a small person but by no means an over large person and I pray when I see people coming down the aisle that I get someone no larger than I am so that we don’t have to overlap. I have had to sit thigh to thigh and shoulder to shoulder with another passenger and it is NOT comfortable. I have had to lean in my seat and end up with a back ache. The seat sizes and leg room on some planes is beyond ridiculous. Good luck if you have a window seat trying to get out! And, if you are tall, you whack your head on the overhead bins. Cattle cars and no other travel options…most are at the mercy of airlines. And then they insult you with six peanuts and 1/2 glass of soda that you try to eat with no space. And, my biggest complaint of late is that “this” airline has now created FOUR classes of seats and the “cheap seats” don’t allow you to select a seat option until time to print boarding passes…oh, guess what’s left…the back of the plane!! So, if I have a short layover time and need to get off the plane quickly, I must pay the extra $50 for “main cabin” to at least get somewhat closer to the exit. GIVE ME A HIGH SPEED TRAIN AND THE AIRLINES SOME COMPETITION!!!

  • So pleased to see this news! I’m a 6’2″, 250 lb. senior who had a very unpleasant experience late last February when flying from Miami to Phoenix on American Airlines. I found myself in a window seat in the fourth row from the back. I was seated but when looking for my seatbelt quickly realized that I had no room to move my legs, hips to get buckled in. The result was instant claustrophobia. Had it not been for the patient flight attendants and ultimately a kind young lady who offered to exchange her aisle seat for mine I would have been in deep trouble. I know I couldn’t have gone back into that window seat. I have flown many times. This was, most certainly, the smallest seat space I’ve ever had to deal with… unexpected and alarming in the extreme. An extra inch or two would have made things much easier for me.

    Good luck with the outcome of your endeavours in this regard.

  • Thanks so much for your action here. Being 6 ‘5″ my legs no longer fit in an economy seat. I have my knee jammed into the seat in front of me and cannot adjust it at all. I can barely walk on an extend flight.
    I have had confrontations with the passenger in the seat in front of me who has tried to recline their seat. Desperately need a minimum leg room requirement!

  • Thank you!!! Long LONG overdue! Are you recommending seat sizes and pitch? If so, what are you recommending? And how can we help? Thank you!!!

  • I am so glad you guys took this on. My husband literally cannot sit in the economy with any comfort at all so we are forced to upgrade.. Since I want to sit with him it usually cost us another $100 to $300. I have always thought it was unfair. But the distance from the back of the seat he is in to the back of the seat in front of him is too short for his legs he has to spread them out in order to fit and if the passenger in front of him leans back it crushes his knees

  • I am 6’5″. Because of the cramped and crammed conditions for anyone of my size, flying is PAINFUL. I’ve past the point where I will “turn off everything below the neck” to deal with it. I will not fly if I have a reasonable alternative. In effect, I feel am denied access just because of my size-a size which is, arguably, very normal.

  • The airlines have been given the freedom to self regulation. This is fine when they are responsible with this right,but they have not been. Shrinking sears and diminished leg room and no rules for compensation to customers who are impacted by airline caused delays have been taken advantage of.

  • I am sixty three years old , six feet tall and I have a knee injury that is aggravated every time I fly. My knees are constantly rubbing the metal bar of the magazine pocket or jammed into the back of the seat in front of me. The pressure over even two hours causes pain for days later.
    I am forced to fly in larger seats not by choice but necessity.
    This is discrimination pure and simple.

  • I was so glad to find out this organization exists! I am all for capitalism and a free market, but in a case like air travel, it plain does not work! I fly 3 out of every 4 weeks, and I’m here to tell you that every single airline has done the same thing – smaller seats, with less cushion, jammed closer together. When you have a direct flight that lasts 4’ish hours, by the time you arrive you’re so wracked up from trying to keep yourself squeezed into your little seat, and having your knees jammed up to your chin. It’s inhumane! Deregulating the airlines may have brought prices down, but it’s also enabled the airlines to become profit-mongering cattle drivers, instead of a business concerned for their passengers. I have little optimism, but I hope something comes of this judge’s ruling.

  • I am a short female, but one of the things that I find horrific is to attempt to get up out of the seat–especially a middle or window seat– when the passenger in front of you has the back of his set completely reclined. There is no way to stand up even when the seat is partially reclined. At best you stumble out of the seat, and it is easy to nearly fall in the lap of your seat-mate. As someone who has a vestibular problem, trying to exit the seat while at a distinct angle is incredibly difficult.

  • I commend your effort to keep seat pitch/width from decreasing. A plane must be able to be evacuated in 90 seconds to pass safety regulations. Airline employees do the evacuation tests. These tests should be conducted with the average population: 20% obese, 20% over 50 years, disabled people, (amputees, deaf, blind) mothers with small children and a few “service” dogs. Smaller seats make it impossible to be comfortable and safe. At 5’5″/140 I use all the seat. You pay for a seat and many passengers have to share their seat with a larger person. This is unsafe, uncomfortable, and unhealthy , all of which can lead to aggression and anger.

  • I learned about this site through news channels based on the recent development. I am a petite healthy 40 yo, woman and last fall I flew from LA to Atlanta in a middle seat sitting next to a larger gentleman whose shoulders extended well beyond the 17-or 18 inch width for his seat – so much so, his entire arm and shoulder overlapped mine the entire flight. My left side, shoulder and breast were squished and I felt claustrophobic. He was a nice man and apologized, but said there was nothing he could do. I was forced to contort my body, arm and shoulder, so that his shoulder stopped digging into my left breast and chest – there was no room for me to move my body out of the way so it continued. It was so uncomfortable (not to mention violating) and I experienced so much pain with this seating situation, I politely asked a flight attendant with tears in my eyes to move. I told her that sitting there hurt me and my chest. She said the flight was full and there was nothing she could do. For almost 4 hours I had to endure this emotional traumatic and physically painful and experience. The sweet man to my right, felt so bad for me he offered to switch seats. I humbly declined because it would have been worse for him. At the end of the flight, a lead attendant came by and offered me 5000 flying miles because of the situation as they could obviously see that I was in distress throughout the entire flight. Here is where it gets worse: after we landed and I was able to sit straight, I felt pain on the left side of my chest. I knew it was from being squished and contorting my body for 4 hours but thought it would go away. When I awoke the next morning the pain was worse! It hurt so bad when I rotated my upper body. I had never felt a pain like this. When I arrived back in LA I went to the chiropractor, she said that she thought I had costochondridits (inflammation of the cartridge and sternum) and that it was most likely due to the way I contorted my body during the flight or his shoulder digging into my chest. I needed treatment with her. After a few weeks the pain was so bad, I thought it could be something else, I went to my GP. She also said she thought it was costochondritis and that I needed to keep up with my chiropractic treatment – which I did, but it only seemed to help incrementally. One day the pain was so intense I could no longer bear it, I drove myself to the ER. The ER doctors did full cardio workup and I thought the pain I was describing was a blood clot. I was subjected to many radiation diagnostics (which I regret), blood tests, EKG, ultrasound, an overnight stay at the hospital only to be told – no blood clot (thanks God) the pain I was experiencing was costocondritis from contorting my body from the airplane flight. It took 3.5 months to finally subside. I have not spoken to the airline about it as I am traumatized from the whole experience. I am sure I have some kind of case against them but have not spoken to a lawyer and not sure what rights I have as passenger to ensure I will not experience an injury from a flight journey. And at the end of the day – it wasn’t that this man was larger, I have flown since and notice that many men’s and women’s shoulders do not fit within their seat space and their shoulders overlap with other passengers. It boils down to passenger rights, airplane seat sizes. Hopefully my story will help people realize that this is a real concern as a health and safety issue and that no one should endure an injury just for sitting their seat on a flight.

  • Congratulations on your recent victory, and I hope you (we) ultimately prevail. I’m 6’5″. I know flying isn’t very comfortable for anyone, but it’s SO much worse for us who are taller. It would be nice if the airlines would allow their tallest passengers to sit in the exit row or bulkhead seats, rather than selling them as a perk.

  • I just don’t think I’ll ever fly again. The abuse of flyers who have Paid$ (very) hard earned money to travel, perhaps even to a funeral, are treated as if the airline is (Doing Us a Favour)
    (Some GRAND Gesture)
    The reality is, we (as flyers),
    or at the very least, I no longer feal,
    as if I have any rights.
    There is an expression in Spanish which almost defies translation to English.
    (Yo tengo no hay ganas)
    (I have absolutely no desire)
    to ever travel again.

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