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Economy airline seats pose ‘life-and-death’ risk to passengers, says report

A RECENT investigation seems to confirm nearly every airline passenger’s worst fear: economy seating “could be a death trap.”

The Daily Beast has reportedly examined “over 900 pages” of documents from the US Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and concluded that newer economy class seating sections may not provide adequate room for evacuation in the case of an emergency, Fox News reports.

The report follows a lawsuit filed in the United States by American non-profit group Flyers Rights, which claims the average width of standard economy seats is shrinking.

The Daily Beast uncovered new information on the US Court of Appeals and its ruling that the “densification” of economy seating on newer aeroplanes presented “a plausible life-and-death safety concern” for passengers.

According to the Daily Beast, the court concluded the FAA was relying on outdated studies when arguing that no new evacuation tests were necessary to determine safety standards in more modern, cramped aircraft.

It has been argued shrinking seats and seat pitches could make it difficult for passengers to evacuate in an emergency.

It has been argued shrinking seats and seat pitches could make it difficult for passengers to evacuate in an emergency.Source:istock

For instance, the site reports neither Boeing nor the FAA has released the evacuation data for the newer “and most densely seated” models of the Boeing 737.

“The tests carried out to ensure that all the passengers can safely exit a cabin in an emergency are dangerously outdated and do not reflect how densely packed coach class seating has become — or how the size of passengers has simultaneously increased,” the Daily Beast reported.

Flyers Rights claims the width of a standard economy seat has decreased from an average of 18.5 inches to just 17 since the early 2000s.

The space between an economy seat back and the one in front of it — also called the “pitch” — has also shrunk, from an average of 35 inches to 31 inches. And on the shortest end, the pitch in some planes is only 28 inches.

Seats in economy class seem to be shrinking.

Seats in economy class seem to be shrinking.Source:ThinkStock

As a result, passengers can no longer adopt a proper bracing position in the event of an emergency, argues Paul Hudson, the president of Flyers Rights, who called economy airline seating “a Titanic waiting to happen.”

Meanwhile, the FAA has since told the Daily Beast that seat pitch “in no way” has an effect on their evacuation and safety tests. However, a judge had already dismissed that argument as making “no sense,” the site says.

The court has reportedly given the FAA until December 28 to respond to its ruling.

Skyscanner recently ran a comparison of the seat pitch in economy class on airlines flying in and out of Australia.

Jetstar’s economy seats have a pitch of 29-30 inches, Qantas has 31 inches, and Virgin Australia and Tigerair both have pitches of 29-31 inches. On Emirates, the economy seat pitch is between 32 and 34 inches.

A version of this article originally appeared on Fox News and was reproduced with permission.

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