- Travelers’ dissatisfaction with cramped airline seats has increased as planes pack in more seats.
- Sponsored by Sens. Baldwin and Duckworth, the EVAC Act aims to make airplanes more accessible and safer.
- The bill encourages the FAA to consider factors such as disability or age when writing evacuation guidelines.
It’s no secret that most people who travel by plane hate their small, cramped seats. But airplane seats aren’t just uncomfortable – they can be unsafe for some. A new bill moving through Congress aims to address flight safety for people with disabilities or other restrictions that could make evacuation difficult.
As travel prices steadily return to pre-pandemic levels, airlines have been scrambling to recoup lost profits and fit more people on planes, even looking at models that suggest “double-decker” airplane seats – much to the chagrin of anyone traveling by coach . .
According to a new report from The Wall Street Journal, in 2022, the Federal Aviation Administration asked for public opinion on whether seat size on airplanes created safety concerns — and for more than 26,000 public commenters, they do.
“It is my opinion that much of the activism by airline passengers can be attributed, at least in part, to the severe overcrowding on planes. When people are so crowded that they cannot move comfortably without bumping into or annoying someone else, they become tense and angry.” wrote a commenter to the FAA. “I am elderly and can no longer fly unless I pay extra for extra seat space. No one except the airline’s shareholders likes this situation.”
Other contributions point to the potential for hip or knee injuries caused by a lack of space between the seats. Many also mentioned height and weight as factors that made flying uncomfortable.
“I’m a 6’5″ 320lb. man … After most flights I take, my knees are in a lot of pain,” another submission said. “Being a big person makes it difficult to move around the cabin. In the event of an emergency, it would be very difficult for me to maneuver out of my seat and move out of the way of my fellow passengers to get to safety.”
Now Congress is trying to address the potential safety hazards with the Emergency Vacating of Aircraft Cabin, or EVAC, Act.
In May, U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin and Tammy Duckworth reintroduced the bill, originally introduced in December 2022. It calls on the FAA to “do a better job of taking into account real-world conditions to ensure that all types of passengers can safely evacuate in a emergency,” asking the agency to update evacuation standards to account for passengers with disabilities, of different heights and weights, and airplane seat size and configuration, among other things.
Current FAA standards say passengers must be able to evacuate a plane within 90 seconds in the event of an emergency, but the bill’s authors say test subjects for this guideline were all adults under 60. The bill also says the tests were conducted in small groups rather than considering that some planes can carry more than 200 passengers.
The FAA has yet to investigate potential complications caused by people trying to evacuate with carry-on luggage, despite the National Transportation Safety Board’s proposal to do so, according to the bill.
In addition to addressing such issues, airlines have also been under pressure as the cost of retaining pilots rises, according to reporting from Reuters.
Airplane seat size has long been a contentious topic, with online “travel hacks” claiming to help passengers get more space for themselves on planes, such as booking aisle and window seats in a row in the hope that a single passenger won’t take the middle seat , lifting aisle seat armrests and research airline seat sizes before ordering.
In March, a TikTok user caused controversy when he suggested a “poor man’s first class” trick: passengers book an entire row of refundable seats and then cancel their tickets close to boarding time to have a row to themselves.
Representatives for Baldwin, Duckworth and the FAA did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment, sent outside regular business hours.
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