How big should an airline seat be?

By | Category: Travel news

airline seats – we aren’t all the same size and the average person is bulkier than they were fifty years ago

In May, we told you the story of a man suing American Airlines because a large passenger next to him caused him to contort himself which resulted in back problems.

If seats had expanded as the average person got bigger the issue might never have arisen. As it is, as passengers have grown taller and waistlines have expanded, seats have got smaller.

In the USA, a consumer affairs group called Flyers Rights is pursuing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) over seat sizes. It says that seat pitch has shrunk from an average of 35 inches in the 1970s to 31 inches, and even 28 inches in some cases today. Naturally it depends on the airline and the aircraft that you travel in because many vary.

On Ryanair the seat pitch is 30 inches in economy and seat width is 17 inches. On easyJet it is 29 inches and 18 inches width regardless of which model airbus you fly. On short-haul flights domestically or in Europe, British Airways has about the same measurements.

Is this sufficient for comfort? Is it sufficient so that it doesn’t cause health issues?

The US Court of Appeals in Washington has sided with Flyers Rights (you can read the judgement on their website) and ordered the FAA to review the issue of seat pitch on aircraft after it had previously refused to do so. The three judges referred to this court action as ‘the case of the incredible shrinking airline seat.” The judges also criticised the FAA for refusing to disclose any data on tests and gave no “reasoned explanation” for withholding the tests.

But how long will it take the FAA to review seat pitch and width? And will the CAA follow suit over here? Should minimum seat sizes be mandatory and decided by medical staff rather than bean counters or aircraft designers? In the meantime, many airlines have plans to try and add seats into their existing cabins.


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