At the start of the hearing, Charles Leocha, Travelers United Member and the consumer representative on the committee, pointed out there are specific guidelines to ensure dogs and horses have enough space on planes, but no guidelines for actual human beings exist. Who's in charge of this stuff, anyway?
One big takeaway: airlines need to do more realistic evacuation tests. Cynthia Corbertt, a human factors researcher with the FAA, claimed safety tests are run on planes using 31 inches of space between each row of seats. However, some budget airlines offer as little as 28 inches. Although it's only a 3-inch difference, no one has accounted for how the space reduction affects airplane evacuation. When lives are at risk, saying, "It's just a few inches!" isn't cutting it.
Other concerns included the likelihood of developing health problems, like deep vein thrombosis as a result of sitting too long, along with increases in air rage. Speakers offered solutions, such as requiring airlines to publish seat size so passengers can gauge whether or not they can realistically fit. The committee didn't announce any official decisions, but will factor all these points into its deliberations.
While airlines like Southwest are taking steps to offer wider seats, Leocha pointed out that other airlines (including international ones) are thinking about implementing standing seats. The idea is that less space = cheaper fares. But there has to be a breaking point for this nickel-and-dime game. What's next, seats strapped to the wings?