The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) wants to know what the public thinks about the size of airplane seats and legroom as part of a wider review into how various factors could impact a successful evacuation in the event of an emergency.
The FAA said on Monday that it was preparing to publish an official document on the federal register that will allow members of the public to share their comments on the issue.
News of the imminent publication was first revealed on Friday but it took several days for the FAA to acknowledge the news. The federal register has not yet been updated to allow members of the public to share their opinion.
The reason the FAA is doing this is because it was ordered by Congress to review airplane emergency evacuation procedures and lawmakers specifically told the FAA to review whether tighter seating configurations could impact an emergency evacuation.
The requirement to review evacuation procedures was laid out in the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 and the agency was meant to have completed its work on the issue within one year.
That, however, didn’t happen and the FAA seemingly ignored the issue until the current administration took office. Earlier this year, the FAA submitted a report to Congress on aircraft evacuation procedures which included a major review of past evacuations, as well as simulations.
That study didn’t find any major issues with shrinking seat size and decreasing legroom but the FAA is still required to open up the report to public scrutiny and comment for a period of 90 days.
Airlines, aircraft manufacturers and seat suppliers could all take part in the public comment exercise to share their views on the matter. Members of the public can also comment on any of the other issues raised by the study.
For example, the FAA found that passengers stopping to take their hand luggage could impede an emergency evacuation but the agency is only recommending that a paragraph be added to pre-flight safety briefings telling passengers to leave all their baggage behind in the event of an emergency.
Safety advocacy groups want aviation regulators to go much further and have suggested mandating lockable overhead lockers that would physically prevent passengers from retrieving their luggage.
“The FAA encourages commenters to review the cabin evacuations study, and provide information about the minimum dimensions of passenger seats that are necessary for safety,” the agency said on Monday.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.