Smaller Seats for Health & Safety

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There is growing pressure on the airline industry from consumer advocacy groups to make airline seats bigger due to safety concerns. 

The seats on airplanes have gotten a bit smaller but our bodies have gotten significantly bigger.

The average weight of both men and women is 30 pounds greater than in the 1960s – and we know it’s not all muscle mass.  About 40% of the US population is considered obese, and by 2030 is projected to be 50%.

At the same time, the width of seats on many U.S. airlines has shrunk from about 18.5 inches to 17 inches.

Seat sizes have been allowed to be smaller because decreasing seat size to current levels has been shown to not have a negative impact on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) standard of a 90-second evacuation time.  

The FAA has been asking the public to weigh in on the issue of seat sizes as it gathers information on the topic.

Predictably, many of the comments are almost comically flawed.

One example: “A passenger who has been sitting in a cramped position for several hours is not going to be able to react as fast as someone who is relaxed and comfortable.” 

Neither is a passenger who is 30 pounds heavier than he or she needs to be. 

There’s something supremely silly about demands to make airplane seats larger due to safety and health concernsIf health and safety were such a top priority for the public, we wouldn’t all be 30 pounds heavier than 50 years ago with obesity at 40%.

Health and safety either are a concern for someone or are not. 

Let’s not pretend that any size airline seat is going to be super spacious so debating the difference of an inch or two matters little.  If we all took care of making our own seats smaller, we wouldn’t need to whinge about the airlines making their seats smaller.  We cannot steer into unhealthy living and expect the world to adjust to accommodate our choices.  That’s not how reality works.

I know I’m an outlier.  I think there should be some sort of physical test to earn the right to sit in an exit row seat, as I wrote about a few years ago in “Fly Funtensity Airlines.”  Wouldn’t you rather know for certain that the person in the exit row had the strength to lift the aircraft door and discard it from the plane to prepare for emergency egress? 

Our health and safety is up to us. It’s not up to the government or doctors, although they can help.  But most of the responsibility is with us as individuals. 

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