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US Government Regulation of Seat Pitch?

US Government Regulation of Seat Pitch?

Old Oct 26, 18, 1:01 am
  #16  
 
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Keep in mind, for those who think that seat pitch would really slow down an evacuation: the bottleneck is the aisle and exits. Just like in a regular deplaning, the thing that takes time is not getting out of the row - it's waiting for the people in the aisle to make space for you to get out of the row.

Now, on the other hand, smaller pitch = more pax per plane = slower evacuation. But let's say the airline added more exits in order to shrink seat pitch even more - I'm not sure you would be happy then either.

All that is to say, I don't think FAA should be regulating seat pitch directly, as long as airlines comply with evacuation times.
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Old Oct 26, 18, 3:52 am
  #17  
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I am a bit conflicted on this issue. I believe that in general, the free market works best. As an example, several airlines have premium economy options with more leg room at fairly minimal cost. But on the other hand, capitalism cannot be unrestrained either. At this point, the airlines are basically an oligopoly, so they have little need to worry about quality of service. In general, an oligopoly/monopoly needs to be regulated in order to maintain standards.

I think the airlines brought this upon themselves. They were too greedy. They milked the passengers for everything they could, and finally, they reached a tipping point where enough people were upset that the government decided to step in.

1. I think the government should do a study on this, and determine if a minimum pitch would improve public health. I'm not an expert, but I believe there are some medical conditions that could be exacerbated by lack of space, such as DVT.

2. With regard to distortions, I can't think of any obvious loopholes in such a regulation. The only issue might be international routes. US carriers are going to be upset if they have to comply with these regulations and their foreign competitors on the same routes don't.

3. As I said, I think there should be a study done. But barring that, I think that the current lowest pitch on the ULCCs might be a good limit. That way, no airline has to retrofit their aircraft, but it prevents any further shrinking.
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Old Oct 26, 18, 4:02 am
  #18  
 
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Originally Posted by HLCinCOU View Post
Wow, well I guess that establishes the maximalist position

Seems odd to me that you seem to say you would only support a limit if it required actual pitch increases in the fleet. I don't see why anyone who supported that wouldn't also support a regulation that simply kept pitch from going even lower.
So, let me clarify... If we're going to set the minimum at whatever the least pitch in the U.S. already is today, that won't do us any good. On the contrary, it would be detrimental. Every airline will know what they can get away with legally now, and will begin to regress toward that minimum pitch. I.e., if Spirit is given the legal thumbs up, we're all screwed.

This seems particularly harmful to me. New routes are almost by definition risky and less likely to be profitable to the airline; they are also often served by smaller frames, at least initially. Telling an airline that if they want to open up a new route they have to use a newer or more recently retrofitted plane strikes me as a great way to slow down route network growth. If I'm in a city that lacks service, or is served by only one or two carriers, I absolutely would want other carriers to have the lowest barriers to entry possible. Oh, wait, I am in a city with two carriers, and I do want to see low barriers!
Valid point. I think another possible concern with this (which I only thought of after posting) is that, as written, there's nothing stopping an airline from shifting around its aircraft continuously to ensure that the aircraft with the most generous pitch amounts are always flying the newest routes. Which then defeats the purpose of that restriction.

Still, I see potential value in it. My intent with it was primarily to tell airlines that modifying their fleet to be in compliance with the new pitch regulations is important, and that it's something they need to start working on immediately. If they want to continue growing, the retrofitting of the fleet needs to be an immediate part of that growth plan. I suspect that would have a side effect of speaking to your second item - how to minimize disruption. If there isn't a strong incentive to retrofit the fleet starting very soon, airlines will tend to put it all off until the 11th hour. Then you've got all airlines competing for maintenance facilities at the same time, airlines taking a large percentage of their fleet out of service at the same time, etc. This way, if an airline wants to grow, unless they decide to shuffle aircraft already in compliance to their new routes, they would have to start modifying their planes before they could launch the new routes.
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Old Oct 26, 18, 4:06 am
  #19  
 
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I read recently the "evacuations" are nowadays done by computer models, not real live people. If this is the case they'l likely be nothing like the real thing.
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Old Oct 26, 18, 7:51 am
  #20  
 
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Why limit this to pitch? What about seat width? Minimum allowable recline, cushioning, and lumbar support. The bathrooms are too small. Meals on all flights over two hours, with detailed caloric information...

In other words, this is not the government's business.
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Old Oct 26, 18, 12:14 pm
  #21  
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Determining minimums from a safety/evacuation view is clearly the government business. There is not a pricing issue on safety.

From a comfort view, government regulation would reduce product/airline differentiation and pricing. Larger pitch can be sold for a higher fare. But the view that airlines are an oligopoly/near monopoly has value as well.
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Old Oct 26, 18, 1:42 pm
  #22  
 
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In the recent FAA Reauthorization bill which was signed into law earlier this month, Congress included a section which requires DOT to put out regulations on minimum seat dimensions. The relevent section is below:

SEC. 577. Minimum dimensions for passenger seats.
(a) In general.—Not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, and after providing notice and an opportunity for comment, the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration shall issue regulations that establish minimum dimensions for passenger seats on aircraft operated by air carriers in interstate air transportation or intrastate air transportation, including minimums for seat pitch, width, and length, and that are necessary for the safety of passengers.

(b) Definitions.—The definitions contained in section 40102(a) of title 49, United States Code, apply to this section.

Link to the full bill
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Old Oct 26, 18, 9:57 pm
  #23  
 
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Originally Posted by Morty1944 View Post
Determining minimums from a safety/evacuation view is clearly the government business. There is not a pricing issue on safety.

From a comfort view, government regulation would reduce product/airline differentiation and pricing. Larger pitch can be sold for a higher fare. But the view that airlines are an oligopoly/near monopoly has value as well.
So much good sense in such a short post! Agree 100% with every bit. Especially that last point, which I think is underappreciated: the structure of the market makes it far from clear-cut how much the state should get involved in just ensuring good consumer outcomes. We can't just go with our Econ101 "keep the state out of competitive markets" when we know the market is really less than competitive. Still think this specific reg isn't a great idea, but it's not an area that should be off limits on principle.
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Old Oct 26, 18, 10:08 pm
  #24  
 
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Originally Posted by LarryJ View Post
Here's an FAA advisory circular which describes procedures for conducting an evacuation test.

https://www.faa.gov/documentLibrary/..._25.803-1A.pdf
Wow, thanks for dropping Hoyle on us! That is one terribly interesting document.

I only scanned most of it, but did read the parts about passenger selection, informing passengers, and injury-avoidance reasonably closely. Quick thoughts:

1. It seems to me like they made pretty reasonable decisions on procedure given the inherent tradeoff: you want a good test, but you really, really don't want to hurt your subjects either. So they give them gloves and things like that.
2. It definitely reads like they're pulling randoms out of an airport, but that doesn't really make a lot of sense, right? They have to be recruiting somehow, and the way that's sort of undefined makes me wonder how representative their subjects are.
3. They do specify age/gender splits, so they're thinking about the problem.
4. No matter what they do, these subjects know they're in a test, and that whatever happens on the plane isn't actually a life-threatening situation. As such, it can't possibly model the true panic of a real evacuation. I think this probably floods all other considerations as to validity.
5. The analysis section was really interesting; as somebody above said it is in fact acceptable in some circumstances to just model the evacuation instead of performing it. I don't think I'm qualified to comment on how valid or not their guidelines on that are.

Anyway, cool stuff Larry, thanks!
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Old Oct 26, 18, 10:27 pm
  #25  
 
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Originally Posted by channonc View Post
In the recent FAA Reauthorization bill which was signed into law earlier this month, Congress included a section which requires DOT to put out regulations on minimum seat dimensions. The relevent section is below:

SEC. 577. Minimum dimensions for passenger seats.
(a) In general.—Not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, and after providing notice and an opportunity for comment, the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration shall issue regulations that establish minimum dimensions for passenger seats on aircraft operated by air carriers in interstate air transportation or intrastate air transportation, including minimums for seat pitch, width, and length, and that are necessary for the safety of passengers.

(b) Definitions.—The definitions contained in section 40102(a) of title 49, United States Code, apply to this section.

Link to the full bill
Well this kind of changes the whole question of the thread. Now it's really not so much "should the government step in and regulate pitch" but "what should the FAA do in its new rule?"

I like that they made it the broader "seat dimensions" than pitch specifically, for the reasons outlined above. As I think is clear from my posts, I don't have super strong opinions on what they should do. But I'll be interested to see.
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Old Oct 26, 18, 10:37 pm
  #26  
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Originally Posted by eastindywalrus View Post
So, let me clarify... If we're going to set the minimum at whatever the least pitch in the U.S. already is today, that won't do us any good. On the contrary, it would be detrimental. Every airline will know what they can get away with legally now, and will begin to regress toward that minimum pitch. I.e., if Spirit is given the legal thumbs up, we're all screwed.
Do you believe the reason the government should be involved in setting seat pitch is to assure passenger comfort? That seems to be what you're saying.

Why does the government have a role in the specifications of a product being sold beyond safety? Seems like getting the FDA involved in assuring only food that tastes good is approved for sale.

What would airlines think they can "get away with"? There's no regulation today - what's been stopping them over the last decade?
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Old Oct 27, 18, 5:15 am
  #27  
 
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Originally Posted by CPRich View Post
Do you believe the reason the government should be involved in setting seat pitch is to assure passenger comfort? That seems to be what you're saying.

Why does the government have a role in the specifications of a product being sold beyond safety? Seems like getting the FDA involved in assuring only food that tastes good is approved for sale.

What would airlines think they can "get away with"? There's no regulation today - what's been stopping them over the last decade?
While on a personal note, my hope is that pitch regulation would result in a minimum pitch that is at least tolerable (especially for those north of 6 feet tall like myself), putting my personal desires aside, I do feel that extremely low seat pitch is a safety issue. I feel this is true in both evacuation scenarios and in the general physical safety and well-being of someone sitting in a seat for a long duration.

As for what's stopping an airline from going lower today, I believe it's a combination of two things:
  1. The obvious - public opinion, and
  2. The fear that regulators will establish a minimum pitch greater than what an airline would set their pitch at, and the corresponding fear of having to modify their fleet to comply.
If/When a minimum pitch is established, I do suspect that you'll see some airlines on the higher side of it regress back to that pitch. That's why I feel that if we're going to establish a minimum pitch, it better be a reasonable one, primarily for safety, yes, but also for comfort. Because regardless of safety, if a low minimum pitch is set, airlines above that are going to slowly move back toward it, and this will only result in decreased customer comfort, regardless of what the actual intent was.
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Old Oct 27, 18, 9:02 am
  #28  
 
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Laws on seat WIDTH would be beneficial. The wider seats are, the less of them there are = less people to evacuate. I'd gladly pay whatever premium there would have to be to make each seat 30% wider than today.
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Old Oct 27, 18, 1:07 pm
  #29  
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Originally Posted by thunderlounge View Post
I personally don’t trust those evacuation tests. Fill the test with 95% of participants being clueless, and then we’ll talk.
And don't forget the increasing percentage of those clueless idiots who insist on taking their roll aboard bag with them when they do evacuate.
https://www.travelandleisure.com/tra...lane-emergency

Then there are the disabled, parents with small children etc. who simply are going to be slower during an evacuation. How many of them are included when they do a test?

The tests are a joke in my opinion. At best they test 'best possible time', not 'most likely time' to evacuate.
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Old Oct 27, 18, 1:11 pm
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I can't remember where I saw it, but there was a test where they paid $XX to a group of people who were off first. Apparently it worked well to simulate a frantic evacuation.
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