Why smaller airplane seats could kill you

FlyersRights.org, a Florida-based airline passenger rights advocacy group, has filed a petition with the United States Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia asking the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to regulate seat dimensions. As airline seats have got smaller, people have bigger, which FlyersRights.org says could hamper plane evacuations. In the 1970s, the distance from one seat back to the next was 31 to 35 inches and about 18.5 inches wide. Now it’s down to as low as 28 inches on low cost-carriers and about 17 to 17.5 inches wide. At the same time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the obesity rate in the U.S. is nearly 38 percent, a 15-percent increase from 1980. Despite customer complaints about comfort and safety, the FAA has responded that it “has no evidence that current seat sizes are a factor in evacuation speed, nor that current seat sizes create a safety issue necessitating rule-making.”