Court: FAA must study airline seat size and safety

- The average airline seat width has gone from 18.5 inches to 17 inches and the pitch -- the distance from seat to seat -- went from 35 inches to 31 inches, according to Flyers Rights staff attorney Andrew Appelbaum. The group calls the case of the shrinking airline seat a safety risk in the case of evacuations as well as posing health risks.

Flyers Rights filed a petition for the FAA to study seat sizes back in 2015. The request was rejected. The FAA said it already requires airlines to prove they can get everyone off a plane in case of an emergency.

But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit wasn't convinced. Friday, the judges ruled the FAA must reconsider seat size and space.

The FAA responded to the ruling in a statement.

"The FAA does consider seat pitch in testing and assessing the safe evacuation of commercial, passenger aircraft," the agency said. "We are studying the ruling carefully and any potential actions we may take to address the Court's findings."

So what comes next?

The FAA now has 6 months to provide documentation to back up its argument that it shouldn't regulate seat size. The agency also has 60 days to appeal that decision. 

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