Federal judge orders FAA to review airplane seat sizes

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WASHINGTON -- The voices of Flyer's Rights, an advocacy group that has been pushing for revisions and regulations to the size of passenger seats on airlines has been heard.

Now, a federal judge in Washington D.C. has ordered the Federal Aviation Administration to review seat sizes and legroom on commercial airlines.

"This is the case of the incredible shrinking airline seat", Judge Patricia Millet said.

Previously, the FAA has refused to mandate how much space airlines must ensure customers have on planes.

But the judge's decision will force the agency to revisit the issue.

In a statement Saturday, the FAA said it is "studying the ruling carefully and any potential actions we may take to address the Court's findings."

Flyer's Rights had been petitioning since 2015.

Their demands? Disregarded by the FAA.

So Flyer's Rights took its case to court and won the right to move forward.

The group celebrated the judges' decision Friday, saying the court "granted Flyers Rights and airline passengers a victory."

Flyers Rights had said it's concerned that small airline seats are actually a safety hazard, putting passengers at risk for conditions like deep vein thrombosis.

That's a potentially fatal condition that can cause blood clots in people's legs.

The group has also argued that airlines may be out of step with the realities of Americans' needs, particularly in light of climbing obesity rates. Millet agreed.

"As many have no doubt noticed, aircraft seats and the spacing between them have been getting smaller and smaller, while American passengers have been growing in size," the judge wrote.

Flyers Rights gave the court evidence that the average width of airplane seats has declined from 18.5 inches in the early 2000s, to 17 inches by about 2005.

The shrinking seats have been primarily driven by long-haul airliners that added an extra seat in each row.

While seats are shrinking, they're also squeezing closer together.

The average pitch between seats "has decreased from an average of 35 inches to 31 inches, and in some airplanes has fallen as low as 28 inches," the decision reads.

Seat pitch is a measurement of the distance between one point on a seat to the same point on the seat behind it.

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