Petition To Introduce Airline Seating- And Industry Standards Filed With The FAA

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Activist group FlyersRights filed a petition with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) urging government regulators to end the ever shrinking seat pitch on aircraft and introduce standards.

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The petition has been signed by roughly 30,000 individuals and subsequently handed over to the FAA, however it is unlikely that such a standard will ever be imposed upon the airlines.

The petition from FlyersRights.org (access here) outlines a variety of demands and also suggests improvements in many fields unrelated to the seating issue.

… Public law must include provisions to protect passengers against tarmac delays in excess of three hours, including those on international flights; ensuring their basic human needs are met during long on ground delays. It must also protect passenger safety by mandating minimum seat pitch standards to preclude ingress/egress and health issues, protect travelling infants and small children by mandating airline acceptance of FAA-certified child seats and provision for their use on all flights, and protect unaccompanied minor air travellers by requiring airlines to provide the services and protections they promise in their Contract of Carriage.

Public law must also address fee and passenger compensation issues, including requiring transparency of all unbundled, ancillary fees, mandating prompt refunds of baggage fees for delayed, lost, damaged or pilfered baggage; and prompt compensation for missing or damaged contents, and requiring refunds of taxes, PFCs, and surcharges for non-refundable tickets when flights are cancelled. Moreover, public law must mandate increased compensation for involuntary “bumping”; and the airlines’ ability to oversell seats. …

You will find some more items in this proposal when you access the document through the link provided above.

I agree with the position that the airlines are getting away with way too much and consumer protection is very limited. Most of the time passengers (especially those that do not hold any Elite Status with the airline) are confronted with horrible service and being told if they want to complain they should voice the matter through customer service. The reply is usually a standardized letter or a token compensation which is in no relation to the inconvenience experienced.

On the other hand the airline industry is a business designed to make a profit and not a charitable organization to transport the public as comfortable as possible for as little money as possible. You pay 3$ for a bus or subway ticket without moaning and complaining so we have to realize that when you pay 300$ to fly round trip from L.A. to Washington D.C. there is very little room to provide you with comfort and luxuries. If you want that, buy First Class just like the person who doesn’t feel comfortable on the Subway has to purchase a car.

The L.A. Times had an article out in connection with this petition (access here).

The FAA said it would review the petition on seat standards in an “appropriate time frame.” 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 for the airline industry, has rejected the idea of legroom and seat width standards. “We also believe that government should not regulate airline seat sizes, but instead market forces and competition should determine what is offered,” said Jean Medina, a spokeswoman for the airline group.

An advisory panel to the Transportation Department met this week but did not recommend seat standards. Instead the Advisory Committee for Aviation Consumer Protection asked the federal agency to urge airlines to disclose their seat dimensions on their websites.

During the meeting, panel member and travel expert Charles Leocha said he was troubled that the government has adopted minimum space requirements for dogs traveling on airplanes but not for humans.

The FAA and especially the Department of Transportation (DOT) receive plenty of consumer notices every day. It is unreasonable to believe they would drop all papers to deal with this petition immediately. It’s honestly not the most important thing in the world to handle.

The Group Airlines for America is politely described as a trade group but in the end they are nothing else but a Lobby Group supporting the airlines agenda (maximum profit, minimum service, screw the customer).

Bringing the argument with traveling pets into the discussion is comparing apples with oranges. Animals have different requirements than humans and most importantly they can’t make their own choices on how to travel so a blanket protection for such instances definitely makes sense. It’s not like a traveler is going to suffocate from sitting for 6 hours in a seat and on top of that you can always get up and walk around, an option which the pet doesn’t have.

Conclusion

Things have to change and airline have to be more regulated again. The Airline Deregulation Act gives these companies way too many freedoms any other private enterprise could only dream of and the officials in charge should act to change that.

In my opinion this all started when carriers imposed the first fuel surcharges in the wake of 9/11 and rising costs and oil. The government also jumped on the bandwagon and charged a 9/11 Security Fee without really saying what the extra service is they are providing. After all, airport security has been around forever. Since then the aviation industry and associated businesses are testing the waters more and more, seeing how far that rubber band can be stretched. Change has to come but it won’t be easy to change an industry so set in it’s ways.

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