Sick of Being Crammed Into an Airplane? This Group Has Your Back(side)

Passenger rights group lobbies for Congress to put a halt to ever-shrinking airplane seats, but the airline industry says the market, not government, should drive these choices.

The worst part of flying coach is often being packed into a plane like sardines. I get a neck ache and leg cramps just thinking about it, and I’m only 5-foot-2. I can’t imagine what it’s like for tall fliers.

As airlines try to squeeze even more passengers onto planes with narrower seats and less legroom, cabin crush has become a frustrating, and sometimes painful, reality of traveling by air.

This is where FlyersRights.org is trying to step in. The passenger rights group has gathered 32,000 signatures on a petition calling on the federal government to require airlines to provide bigger airplane seats. The petition urges Congress to adopt minimum airline seat standards that will “ensure the safety and comfort of travelers,” the Los Angeles Times reports.

“The shrinkage of seats and passenger space by airlines to generate higher profits while the size of passengers has substantially increased has created an intolerable crisis situation,” according to the petition. “It is threatening the health, safety and comfort of all passengers.”

The petition was sent to Federal Aviation Administration chief Michael Huerta in August.

“We are committed to solutions promoting airline passenger policies that advance the safety of all passengers while not imposing unrealistic economic burdens that adversely affect airline profitability or create exorbitant ticket price increases,” the petition reads.

The passenger rights group is requesting that the FAA halt all reductions in seat space and appoint a group to develop minimum seat standards for airlines. The LAT said:

The U.S. Department of Transportation does not impose any standards for seat legroom, width or comfort. Instead, the federal government allows airlines to put as many seats in a cabin as the companies want as long as the passengers have enough room to escape in an emergency within 90 seconds.

Airlines for America, a trade group that lobbies for airlines in Washington, dismissed the idea of the petition and opposes efforts to adopt minimum airline seat standards.

The group said “market forces and competition should determine” seat width standards, not the federal government.

“The government’s role in seat sizes for all forms of transportation (car, bus, rail and air) is to determine what is safe,” Airlines for America said in a statement provided to political website The Hill.

FlyersRights was successful in getting the DOT to expand airline passenger protections in 2011 to include a ban on tarmac delays of more than four hours, financial compensation for involuntarily bumped fliers and full disclosure of fees.

What do you think of the petition asking for minimum seat standards for airlines? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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