FAA opens forum for criticisms on shrinking airline seat size

The Federal Aviation Administration is allowing airline passengers to share their criticisms about shrinking seat sizes on their flights.

Video Transcript

DAVE BRIGGS: Are airplane seats too small? Well, yes. Of course, they are, unless you're five years old. Airlines have consistently shrunken the size of seats over the years to fit more passengers on planes, but now the FAA is soliciting public comments on minimum dimensions. Pras Subramanian here with that story, and I would imagine they've received a few comments.

PRAS SUBRAMANIAN: Yeah, some flooding of comments maybe on the website. But yeah, you know, it's funny. The airline-- the saying is that the more you suffer-- the more pain you suffer, the more profit they make, right? That's the airline model, unfortunately, as we've sort of experienced it recently. So the FAA was sort of seeking comment on safety issues, like what's the minimum size we need to get people comfortably out of a seat in case they need to evacuate an airplane.

So they opened up public commentary on the rules-making for this. And of course, when I wrote the article, 9,500 people have commented about what-- about this rule. And a lot of them were complaints about the seats are too small. I can't get out. It's uncomfortable. And then I'll say, in the event of an emergency, I can't-- how would I leave the airplane? So this is sort of a legitimate kind of concern that's sort of now been ported on to the complaining about seat sizes.

So the airline trade group says safety is most important. We work with the FAA on all this stuff. The seats are improved by the FAA. The amount of seats per plane is approved by the FAA. So don't say that we're trying to pack you in, but the comments will say otherwise. So we're sort of in the situation where maybe you might see some kind of rule-making here where they might actually mandate a certain size for people on a plane.

SEANA SMITH: Do we have any idea of what that size could potentially or would look like? I would assume hopefully not smaller than what we're seeing today, right? It would only be bigger?

PRAS SUBRAMANIAN: So I don't think--

SEANA SMITH: Is that safe to say?

PRAS SUBRAMANIAN: Yeah, I don't think they're getting smaller--

SEANA SMITH: I don't know. I'm not too confident that we're actually going to get any movement on this.

PRAS SUBRAMANIAN: But they've said over the past 10 years, seat width sizes have gone in 2 inches, and pitch has come in 4 inches. And some airlines like Spirit have brought it in 6 inches in terms of pitch in terms of legroom. So you can see why sort of discount carriers, you really are losing that legroom.

DAVE BRIGGS: But this is not about our comfort, right? This is solely about our safety. They don't care if your knees are jammed into the seat ahead of you.

PRAS SUBRAMANIAN: Yeah, the FAA says they're not concerned about safety at this point. But however, you do need to be somewhat comfortable and not crammed up if you're trying to actually exit a plane in the event of an emergency. So you have to take that into consideration.

There's studies about deep vein thrombosis and things like that that happen when you're really crunched up in a plane. So I think there's some leeway here maybe for the FAA to sort of mandate, hey, we need an X number size seat width. And then we need a certain amount of pitch length in order for someone to get out comfortably.

SEANA SMITH: What's the timeline on this? Any idea when we could potentially see a change?

PRAS SUBRAMANIAN: So end of November, I believe they're gonna close the commentary on public-- for public commentary on this rulemaking. I bet by the end of the year, we'll get some rules on that.

DAVE BRIGGS: Do you know the website? Because I am stunned you said there were 9,500. I figured--

PRAS SUBRAMANIAN: I have it.

DAVE BRIGGS: I figured you meant 95,000. OK, what is that website?

PRAS SUBRAMANIAN: Oh, it's registry.gov, and I have the link in my article. And I'll send it to your--

DAVE BRIGGS: You'll put it in the article on Yahoo Finance.

PRAS SUBRAMANIAN: Yes, it's in there right now.

DAVE BRIGGS: I'm just guessing there's more than 10,000.

SEANA SMITH: Everyone needs to flood it. We need much, much bigger seats.

DAVE BRIGGS: We need some momentum there. All right, Pras, thank you.