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FAA Says Cramped Seating On Planes Does Not Slow Down Evacuation

Studies done in 2019-202 finally released after 25 months.

In November of 2019, the FAA began a three-month study of evacuation times of airplanes during an emergency. The FAA authorized the study to determine if recent changes in airline seat placement would impede passengers during an emergency. The FAA finally released the study 25 months later. According to the study results, the FAA still feels that passengers can evacuate quickly despite adding more seats and the position of some seats in the exit row.

Congressman Steve Cohen of Tennessee was not impressed by the data presented by Federal officials. He wrote in a release, "I am disappointed but not surprised that the flawed study came to the foregone conclusion the airline industry dictated. I repeatedly called upon the FAA to reexamine its study parameters and take into consideration the time it takes for elderly travelers, children, and people who have disabilities to safely evacuate aircraft. The flying public cannot rely on the results of this study, nor should seat sizes be based solely on the study's results. I look forward to participating in the FAA's forthcoming public comment period and hope the input is taken seriously before the FAA makes its final determination on minimum seat dimensions that are necessary to ensure passenger safety."

Airlines For America, the industry's mouthpiece, said in a prepared statement, "The FAA is the global gold standard for aviation safety, and we appreciate their comprehensive review of existing aircraft standards, which affirmed the highest level of safety onboard our nation's commercial airlines."

Former FAA administrator Steve Dickson who stepped down on March 31, did tell Congress in a letter that the study only used persons under 50 and healthy. "As a result, they provide useful, but not necessarily definitive information, regarding the effects of seat dimensions on safe evacuations for all populations."

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