If your airline seat seems to be a tighter and tighter fit in recent times, don't worry -- Uncle Sam is on it. According to a government notice, a U.S. Department of Transportation committee met Tuesday, April 14, to discuss "space allocated per passenger on the aircraft."
According to the Associated Press, Julie Frederick, a representative for the American Airlines flight attendants union, said flight attendants are seeing more cases of "air rage," potentially caused by passengers who "bump elbows on armrests and bang their knees against tray tables."
To speak to some of these problems, the DOT called in the Federal Aviation Administration Civil Aerospace Medical Institute, the Centers for Disease Control and the inventor of the Knee Defender (a controversial gadget designed to prevent the person in front of you from reclining) to speak at Tuesday's meeting.
Thinner seats aren't working well for anyone except airlines, who can add about 6 more seats with each inch they reduce from your seat's size. As one representative pointed out at the meeting, the government makes sure dogs have enough space when in transit, but doesn't do the same for human passengers.
In addition to space problems, there are also safety risks associated with shrinking seats. The FAA pointed out Tuesday that passengers must be able to evacuate a plane in 90 seconds with some exits blocked, but those drills are performed on 30-inch pitch seats. Unfortunately, some airlines have seats that only offer 28 inches of pitch.
There is hope as some airlines, such as JetBlue and Southwest, have begun to offer passengers wider and longer seats. But with the amount of money airlines are pulling in from extra seats, it might just take some government regulation to help passengers breathe easier and fly safer.