NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – As fees to fly continue to rise, airplane seats continue to shrink. New pressure is now being put on the Federal Aviation Administration to do something about it, after heroic airline captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger expressed his concerns.
The retired pilot famously responsible for the “Miracle on the Hudson” tweeted his thoughts about the dangers of smaller seats.
Sullenberger cited a New York Times editorial board opinion, which questioned evacuation plans and whether or not passengers could move to get out fast enough with less space.
“People are bigger than they used to be. So we’re making the aisle smaller and the seats narrower. Sounds like a recipe for a dangerous situation,” aviation attorney and pilot Brian Alexander said.
Alexander also agreed with Sullenberger’s concerns.
Seat pitch refers to the space from the back of your seat to the back of the seat in front of you.
The FAA points out seat pitch below 30 inches isn’t common, but some low cost airlines like Spirit reportedly have a seat pitch of 28 inches for some seats.
Passenger advocacy groups have repeatedly petitioned the FAA for seat size guidelines unsuccessfully.
“The FAA has no evidence showing that current seat dimensions hamper the speed of passenger evacuation, or that increased passenger size creates an evacuation issue,” the agency argued.
The FAA mandates a plane evacuation must occur in 90 seconds and says that videotaped demonstrations have proven it can be done. Every passenger CBS2 spoke with noticed the shrinking legroom.
“It’s difficult to get in and out of the seat because there’s hardly any room,” one person told CBS2’s Alice Gainer.
“I have knee replacements, cannot bend the knee so much,” another flyer added.
Alexander notes another major issue – airline passengers bringing more stuff on board which can lead to delays in evacuating because some flyers try to grab their belongings.
“The idea that you should be taking out your phone to film all this, you should be focused on saving yourself, saving others, and only that,” Alexander scolded.
Critics say the evacuation tests are also often done by simulators and need to better reflect current cabin situations in real time, using the elderly and more carry-on baggage in the cabin.
The FAA says there is no explicit limit on seat pitch, but there is a requirement for exit paths.