The Federal Aviation Administration said it won’t force airlines to give passengers more legroom and wider seats because current arrangements don’t present safety issues or hamper evacuation speed.
The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ordered the FAA last year to review its seating safety rules, after a group called Flyers Rights challenged the administration over concerns that tighter seating — and bigger passengers — might slow down evacuations.
In a Tuesday filing, the FAA came back and said there isn’t evidence that current seat width and legroom — and the increasing size of passengers — will slow down evacuation.
“The FAA has no evidence that a typical passenger, even a larger one, will take more than a couple of seconds to get out of his or her seat,” the letter reads. The agency says the time it takes to get up from a seat is less than how long it takes for the exit door to be opened and for the aisle to clear.
The distance between seats, called pitch, has gone from 35 inches before 1978 to an average of 31 inches today. Sometimes it’s as low as 28 inches. The average seat width of 18 inches has also gone down by one to two inches.
Some airline seat manufacturers are pushing for even tighter seating. The Skyriderand has a pitch of just 23 inches.
Flyers Rights didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.