Tuesday 24th October 2017

Court Just Decided That Cramped Airline Seats Are a Safety Hazard

A Court Just Decided That Cramped Airline Seats Are a Safety Hazard
While airlines just want to pursue “narrow-body density opportunities.”
Uncomfortable and dangerous?
CREDIT: Getty Images

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.

Airline seats offer you one glorious benefit.

Claustrophobia.

Unless you are of tiny proportions, sitting in most Economy Class seats is akin to placing yourself into one of those cardboard boxes in which Amazon delivers your groceries.

Airlines insist, however, that there’s really nothing wrong with this.

Why, United Airlines president Scott Kirby feels that if you’re uncomfortable in coach, it’s your own fault.

And let’s not forget American Airlines’ CEO Doug Parker, who is keen on finding “narrow-body density opportunities.”

Which can happily be translated as: Shoving more Economy seats into planes.

Now a U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington D.C. has asked the government to consider whether this might be, well, madness.

As Bloomberg reports, Judge Patricia Ann Millett mused this: “This is the Case of the Incredible Shrinking Airline Seat. As many have no doubt noticed, aircraft seats and the spacing between them have been getting smaller and smaller, while American passengers have been growing in size.”

Yes, we can certainly blame Americans for growing in size. We can also, though, surely blame airlines for pretending that airline food hasn’t made a contribution.

This case revolved around an advocacy group called Flyers Rights. It insisted that sitting in Economy wasn’t just painful, but a safety hazard.

It wants the Federal Aviation Administration to set minimum standards.

Before we’re all forced to stand up during flights, that is.

The three judges sitting on the panel seem to have needed to shift little in their chairs before deciding that, yes, airlines and the FAA were exercising dangerous standards of myopia.

Indeed, the court said that the FAA had a “vaporous record” of examining the safety of turning passengers into battery chickens.

Unlike when you’re sitting in an Economy seat, it’s wise not to hold your breath after this decision.

The FAA did muse: “We are studying the ruling carefully and any potential actions we may take to address the court’s findings.”

But please consider the power of airline lobbying and the painful pace of much government decision-making.

These do not make for the imminence of happy outcomes.

Naturally, the airlines will insist that if seats are to be made more comfortable, then passengers will have to pay more.

It’s not as if the airlines can do anything other than try to extract the maximum amount of revenue from passengers whenever they can.

I leave you, then, with my favorite quote from an executive of American Airlines: “These seats are designed to make efficient use of the space available and feel more spacious, so a 30-inch pitch will feel more like today’s 31 inches.”

Next time you book a flight, ask for Smoke and Mirrors Class.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.
PUBLISHED ON: JUL 30, 2017

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