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US Government Regulation of Seat Pitch?

US Government Regulation of Seat Pitch?

Old Oct 25, 18, 12:31 pm
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US Government Regulation of Seat Pitch?

Various sources report that Congress is considering imposing minimum seat pitch on airlines. Three questions:
- Do you favor regulation of seat pitch on domestic airline routes?
- Any government regulation causes distortions; incentives to find work arounds. How might such a regulation be imposed to create the least amount of distortions?
- If a "minimum" were legislated, what should it be?

Last edited by Morty1944; Oct 25, 18 at 12:32 pm Reason: Misquote.
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Old Oct 25, 18, 12:43 pm
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Generally speaking I am a "let the market decide" kind of guy. I think the FAA is only going to study this from a safety standpoint and not a comfort one.
The likely standard will be in the 28-29" pitch IMHO and thus will have no impact.
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Old Oct 25, 18, 1:03 pm
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Agree with aggie, let the airlines decide what they want to provide their customers
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Old Oct 25, 18, 1:13 pm
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As the topic isn’t single airline specific we’ll move it to a forum with a broader scope for discussion.

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Old Oct 25, 18, 1:14 pm
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My guess too is it will end up at 28 inches because the ULCC aren't going to want to be forced to redo a/c and will give all kinds of claims of soaring airfares if they do. Ultimately consumers are the ones to blame. They are the ones that will buy a cheap fare on Spirit or some other ULCC then go home and groan and moan on FB. I would never fly an ULCC because quite honestly I question the ability to successfully evacuate a fully loaded 28 inch pitch a/c within 90 seconds. As slow as some people move I'd bet some will end up dead. Its an accident waiting to happen.
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Old Oct 25, 18, 1:22 pm
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A regulation that comes in below the 31" pitch common on many carriers and aircraft type today could have the perverse effect of reducing average seat pitch. Next time the carries redo their aircraft they'll tout to us their "enhancement" "to comply with federal regulations".
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Old Oct 25, 18, 1:52 pm
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I broadly agree with what's been said here, and wouldn't favor such a regulation at least as described here. Some thoughts on the matter:

1. Density and space in between seats is absolutely a valid area to regulate. The "distortions" are often the whole point of regulation, and this is no exception: if a market free from distortion produces cheap fares that people want to buy, but unsafe planes, we want some distortion!

2. However, I feel current regulations adequately address this issue. They already make airlines run evacuation tests on their proposed layouts. If they squeeze the seat pitch to unsafe levels, it should show up there.

3. Regulating solely for passenger comfort seems like a poor idea to me. Let there be market segmentation between cheap and uncomfortable Spirit flights and still pretty cheap and slightly less uncomfortable mainline carriers. The industry has done really well since the original deregulation of fares and such, so I say let's run with that approach.

4. Another drawback to regulating pitch directly is that pitch isn't necessarily a perfect indicator of space. Different seats at the same pitch can have significantly different amounts of legroom. Generally this is associated with new "slimline" seats, which people around here like to gripe about for lack of cushioning. But suppose somebody truly innovated with something like suspension fabric (think Aeron desk chair) that was nice and comfortable and had decent legroom at 27" pitch; wouldn't that be a huge net win? Do we really want to discourage that?
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Old Oct 25, 18, 3:32 pm
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Originally Posted by Morty1944 View Post
Various sources report that Congress is considering imposing minimum seat pitch on airlines. Three questions:
- Do you favor regulation of seat pitch on domestic airline routes?
- Any government regulation causes distortions; incentives to find work arounds. How might such a regulation be imposed to create the least amount of distortions?
- If a "minimum" were legislated, what should it be?
  1. Yes, I favor regulation of seat pitch, provided that the regulation establish a reasonable minimum that is greater than the pitch offered by numerous carriers in the United States today. (See #3 .)
  2. Obviously, carriers will need time to make the necessary changes to their aircraft. New minimum pitch regulations should not take effect for a few years, and then a minimum percentage of the fleet should have to be updated over the next few years. I would also be in favor of the following stipulations:
    1. No new routes should be approved for an airline unless the aircraft scheduled to operate the route are in complete compliance with the new regulations. This offers an incentive to carriers to update their fleet sooner rather than later. I would be strongly in favor of this restriction taking effect sooner than the regulations affecting the existing routes.
    2. On the effective date of the regulations for existing fleets, if 80% of the fleet (including all the contract carriers operating as DBA Bla Bla Connection/Shuttle/Whatever) is already in compliance with the regulations, give the airline extra time (a year or two) to complete all modifications. If less than 80% of the fleet is in compliance, then mandate an accelerated completion schedule. This will also incentivize quick compliance for the majority of the fleet for the benefit of passengers, and would also serve as a reward to carriers who already offer more generous pitch amounts today.
    3. If additional leniency was needed, I would prioritize it by aircraft type, route distance, or flight time. Wide-body aircraft, flights over X number of miles, or flights over X number of hours should be regulated first. Then, narrow-body aircraft, flights over Y number of miles, or flights over Y number of hours should be next. Finally, regional jets, flights over Y number of miles, and flights over Y number of hours should be regulated. This would ensure that passengers stuck in poor-pitch situations for longer durations are relieved sooner. This would also mean that regulation would take effect for larger carriers sooner, while allowing smaller carriers (including some of the regional airlines) with narrow-body and/or regional jet-only fleets with less available funds more time to modify their fleet.
    4. Effective immediately, any new aircraft orders placed should be required to meet the minimum-pitch regulation.
    5. Effective immediately, any used aircraft purchases or leases must be modified to meet the minimum-pitch regulation before entering service with the purchasing airline.
  3. 30" on regional jets. 31" on narrow-body aircraft. 32" on wide-body aircraft. (And, just for kicks, 35" on anything with 10 seats across in a cabin.)

Last edited by eastindywalrus; Oct 25, 18 at 3:55 pm
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Old Oct 25, 18, 4:12 pm
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Originally Posted by eastindywalrus View Post
  1. Yes, I favor regulation of seat pitch, provided that the regulation establish a reasonable minimum that is greater than the pitch offered by numerous carriers in the United States today. (See #3 .)
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.

Anyway, the specifics you lay out (thoroughly! props for the detail in your proposal) mostly make sense if we're going to go there. I have just one misgiving:

Originally Posted by eastindywalrus View Post
  1.  
    1. No new routes should be approved for an airline unless the aircraft scheduled to operate the route are in complete compliance with the new regulations. This offers an incentive to carriers to update their fleet sooner rather than later. I would be strongly in favor of this restriction taking effect sooner than the regulations affecting the existing routes.
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!
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Old Oct 25, 18, 4:30 pm
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I would love a time machine that takes us back to the 1970's (disco )... 36" seat pitch, meals on most flights and snacks on short flights, lower load factors, and tickets that are easy to change. But I realize that such a thing is impossible, so unfortunately I think we are stuck with what we have today. The emergency evacuation requirements effectively put a floor on the seat pitch, so this proposed regulation is unnecessary.
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Old Oct 25, 18, 4:58 pm
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I personally don’t trust those evacuation tests. Fill the test with 95% of participants being clueless, and then we’ll talk.
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Old Oct 25, 18, 5:52 pm
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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.
I actually have no idea how these tests are conducted, so I'm just asking. But are you saying they use professionals, or train people to evacuate faster? If so, I'd agree that's not very valid. But that's so obvious it seems like the FAA wouldn't let them do it. Like I said, I have no actual information on the subject.
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Old Oct 25, 18, 6:58 pm
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Originally Posted by HLCinCOU View Post
I actually have no idea how these tests are conducted, so I'm just asking. But are you saying they use professionals, or train people to evacuate faster? If so, I'd agree that's not very valid. But that's so obvious it seems like the FAA wouldn't let them do it. Like I said, I have no actual information on the subject.
No, I’m not saying they are using actual professionals. However, I’m not sure they’re picking up random people who rarely fly, either.

All I was saying is I’m not trusting of their test subjects.
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Old Oct 25, 18, 8:14 pm
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The easiest way to cut evacuation time (as well as deplaning time which would be great) is to ban all carry-ons in the overhead bin. Only coats and hats allowed. Since I don't use the overhead bin, that would be fine with me, but I understand that would be as popular as an American flag in North Korea.

Even if the FAA used the fattest slowest people in an evacuation test, thus resulting in a seat pitch of about 45 inches, the fact of the matter is that when people get their stuff out of the overhead bin before leaving a burning plane, it is going to be unnecessarily slow. Stuff > lives, in modern greedy selfish society.

Besides, the government needs to do something about the population of emotional support animals that is increasing as fast as a cockroach farm. It is totally out of control! Planes rarely ever crash. I would prefer, by a factor of about a thousand, a ban on animals that are not in a crate with the exception of papered proven official service animals than even one extra inch of seat pitch.
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Old Oct 25, 18, 8:46 pm
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Here's an FAA advisory circular which describes procedures for conducting an evacuation test.

https://www.faa.gov/documentLibrary/..._25.803-1A.pdf
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