According to ads for airline travel, there’s a lot of smiling, dancing and conviviality these days aboard commercial flights over the United States. Anyone who’s flown in recent years knows how true that is.
A main issue for air travel discomfort is the seats, which are crammed in closer and closer together to maximize revenue. One theory is this strategy is designed to encourage people to pay more for the seat rows with room to move a leg and breathe.
There’s been so much concern over the shrinking seats and expanding bodies that a group called Flyers Rights sued the Federal Aviation Administration alleging, among other things, safety risks because in the event of an emergency evacuation, so many people would need to work so hard to extricate themselves.
First, let’s be honest: In the event of an emergency airplane evacuation, you’re going to see people moving a whole lot faster than they do during the normal exit procedure at the arrival gate.
Americans have been flying commercially for more than seven decades. Yet, it takes an excruciatingly long time for many people to stand up and walk down an aisle. It’s not a wedding, OK? Your turn to move shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. Get your bag and get moving.
Anyway, the FAA has decided in its grounded wisdom that there’s no need to regulate airplane seating or legroom. As Dorenda Baker of the FAA’s Aircraft Certification Service explains:
The time it takes passengers to get out of their seats, even if those seats are relatively narrow and close together, is less than the time it takes for the emergency exits to begin functioning and for the line that begins forming in the aisle to clear.
Which, we might add just as an observation, is longer than it takes panic to flash through a crowded cabin, even without a whiff of you-know-what.
Airliner seat rows have moved at least three inches closer in recent decades, as average Americans have grown three inches larger or more in many cases. American bottoms have also expanded as seat widths have shrunk about two inches. I don’t know who studied the width of passenger shoulders to design those seats, but it wasn’t a male.
Flyers Rights adds that besides dying, cramped seats also provoke serious health issues like sore joints and life-endangering blood clots. And it vows to pursue its actions since the FAA already regulates seat-belts, headrests and the fire retardant in cushion materials.
Baker says the real safety issue is not how close seats are, but how close passengers follow the safety instructions located in the seat pocket in front of you.
She added: “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.”
Well, get some. Caution, it may be located behind you.