When it comes to air travel there’s one thing most of us can agree on: shrinkage sucks. The average seat pitch—the distance between seats—for a short-haul domestic flight is getting smaller on many planes. And it’s not just pitch: seat width is shrinking, too.
Back in 2017, the folks behind the passenger rights group FlyersRights.org decided they weren’t going to sit back (with their knees in their chins) and take it anymore. They filed a petition with the FAA asking it to establish a minimum seat pitch for U.S. airlines. Their petition noted that legroom has gotten so small that “the 10% of passengers who weigh over 250 pounds or who are over 6′ 2″, cannot fit into most seats.” Plus, the petition stated, there’s been an uptick in “discord” and “unruliness” due to increasingly cramped seating conditions, and the World Health Organization has warned about increased risk of blood clots.
If those arguments weren’t convincing enough, the group noted that “the FAA has failed to conduct real-life testing as to whether passengers in reduced seats and space can safely evacuate in emergency conditions,” which sounds like a reasonable and urgent need. The FAA, though, wasn’t having it.
The aviation regulatory group was ordered to address the “case of the incredible shrinking airline seat” by a judge in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, MarketWatch reports. On Friday, the FAA responded, claiming that seat shrinkage does not affect consumer safety, because cramped leg room doesn’t hamper the speed of passenger evacuation.
That means the agency won’t be setting limits on legroom or seat width—at least until a member of the FAA has to ride coach on one of those cattle-class saddle seats.