Will the FAA regulate seat size?

Loughborough University studied safety issues associated with seating arrangements in planes. The study - published in July 2001 - was undertaken against a background trend of bigger passengers.

This trend in combination with a growing number of long flights and high density seating prompted the need for a review of published anthropometric data. Those data involve the measurement of physical properties of the human body. This could guide possible regulation of seat size.

FAA Reauthorization

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Bill that recently passed the US Congress evokes memories to this study. Section 541 of the bill is about minimum dimensions for passenger seats.

Geen beenruimteThe section stipulates that the FAA "shall issue regulations that establish minimum dimensions for passenger seats (…) including minimums for seat pitch, width, and length, and that are necessary for the safety and health of passengers." The regulations must be issued within 1 year.

This seems the most striking part of the bill. It is also necessary, for airlines continue to squeeze more seats into their aircraft. This increases their profits, but at the expense of passengers' health and safety,

Seat size regulations

However, do not expect that next year you will get a seat that will easily fit. The FAA is not eager to regulate seat size, while carriers are lobbying against it to protect their profits.

Most interesting will be the FAA's motivation when it will announce in 2019 that it is unable to regulate seat size and pitch (distance between rows).


The bill also stipulates that a study must be undertaken on cabin evacuation certification (including cabin configuration). This is very important for passenger safety, because the growing number of seats implies inevitably that evacuating a plane will take more time.

Moreover, the short pitch makes it more difficult for passengers to get out of their row. This will also increase the evacuation time.

Voice calls

Many passengers will be happy with some other language in the bill, too. Examples are a ban of voice calls on planes and minimum standards for emotional support animals. In addition, the bill stipulates that the FAA shall define the term “service animal”.

Related: "Should a minimum seat size be established?"

Tags: FAA Reauthorization Bill, seat size regulation, cabin evacuation certification

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