Seats on airplanes have been getting smaller over the years, but that might change after an appeals court declared the Federal Aviation Administration has to consider a petition for review on small seats, the Huffington Post reported.
“This is the case of the incredible shrinking airline seat. As the average American gets bigger, seats are getting much smaller," Judge Patricia Millett wrote in her opinion.
Evidence of the shrinking seat sizes over the years was presented to the court by the advocacy group Flyers Rights Education Fund. They found that between most economy seats the distance has gone from 35 inches down to 31 inches, with some airlines going down to as little as 28 inches. The width of seats has also gone down over an inch since the early 2000s.
The nonprofit argues that smaller, cramped seats are unhealthy and could cause safety issues during emergency situations, the Huffington Post reported. They had originally petitioned for a review by the FAA in 2015, but it was dismissed.
“Accordingly, when the Administration responds to a petition for rulemaking that exposes a plausible life-and-death safety concern, the Administration must reasonably address that risk in its response. The administration failed that task here," according to the court opinion.
In May, American Airlines had announced they were cutting the amount of legroom for economy seats in their new Boeing 737s, and a month later decided not to cut as much as originally planned and committed to keeping 30 inches of legroom, which was still down from the previous 31 inches, CNN reported.
Airlines with the smallest amount of room between seats are Spirit and Frontier, while JetBlue, Southwest and Alaska were found to have the most, according to CNN.
Congress has considered establishing a minimum requirement for seat and legroom on flights, and their most recent attempt was rejected by the Senate in April.