Karen Fratti
August 02, 2017 4:23 pm

Everyone wants as much legroom as possible when they’re on a plane. Turns out, that legroom is actually called “seat pitch” and the fact that airlines are decreasing the amount of legroom they have could actually be dangerous for passengers. Seat pitch is the room between each seat, and as we all know, the more of it there is, the more comfortable it is. But recently, in the name of finances, airlines have been decreasing their legroom. That means that passengers will  have to be a little more smushed than usual, but it also means that in an event of an evacuation or emergency, there will be less room for movement.

But really, airlines are decreasing legroom across the board.

American Airlines, for example, is decreasing their seat pitch from 31 inches to 29 inches on its Boeing 737 Max jetliners. United Airlines will also be cutting back on two whole inches of legroom. It sounds like a small change — and the amount of seat pitch can vary greatly — but those two inches mean being able to get out of your row just a little bit quicker if you need to. Already, some budget airlines have pretty much no legroom. Spirit, for example, already has just 28 inches. But JetBlue, Virgin, and Southwest have 30 or more inches of seat peach, even in economy.

The decrease in legroom has grabbed the attention of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Last week, the court ordered that the Federal Aviation Administration revisit shrinking seat sizes and pitch from airlines. The issue was brought to the court’s attention by Flyers Rights, who filed a petition back in 2015 alleging that decreasing legroom was dangerous for consumers. It didn’t help anything, according to The New York Times, that many airlines have been under scrutiny recently for the way they treat customers.

Flyers put up with a lot from airlines — but being able to safely evacuate in an emergency is a pretty big deal. The court ruling doesn’t mean that the F.A.A. has to increase seat pitch right away, but it does have to perform a review and resubmit information from airlines justifying the decisions to decrease legroom.

If it’s really just as safe and means cheaper flights, there shouldn’t be a problem. But hopefully airlines aren’t making decisions about seat pitch that could actually put their customers in danger.

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