Are coach class seats dangerously cramped?

  • Seats and leg room on airplanes have been shrinking with the rise of budget airlines that try to cram as many people on a flight as possible
  • The dwindling space between seats is creating concerns not just about comfort – but safety as well 
  • A new report revealed that crash test dummies have been consistently breaking seatback video screens with their heads during simulations
  • No coach seat stands up to the Department of Transportation’s regulations for flight attendant seats

With the rise of budget airlines, Americans are dealing with ever-shrinking seats and leg room on planes – and it may be creating more than just a comfort issue. 

The space between rows in coach cabins have gotten so slim that now none pass the standard for safety the Department of Transportation uses for flight attendant seating, according to a recent report from the Daily Beast.

Flyers Rights, an activist group that has been fighting for flyer safety on airplanes, says the issue has to do with pitch, the space from rows, measured from the top of one seatback to the seatback in front or behind them. 

In the early 2000s, the average pitch width was about 35 inches. Today, it’s decreased to 31 inches, and in some cases, as small as 28 inches. 

The space between rows on airplanes has become so slim, that it may be a safety issue 

That’s an issue in a crash situation because it means that passengers might not be able to lean forward to hold the brace position, or that they may hit their heads on the seat back in front of them during collision – resulting in a possibly grave injury from blunt force trauma. 

That seems to be backed up by DOT documents, showing the results of tests on seatback video screens on planes. 

Before the FAA allowed manufacturers to substitute cheaper seatback screens, dummies regularly shattered the screens in crash simulations.  

While the Daily Beast was not able to find any safety standards when it came to pitch size on planes, they did find regulations for flight attendant seats that were startling. 

The regulations shows that there needs to be 35 inches between the back of the seat to the seat in front of them in order to avoid a ‘head strike’. 

Currently, no coach seats pass that standard of width, according to a court briefing from Flyers Rights. 

The group is currently fighting the FAA to place a moratorium ‘on any further reductions in seat size, pitch and passing and aisle width’. They also want a task force to be established to set new standards for seat and passenger space. The FAA has until December 28 to respond to the request.