American University
FAA Airplane Seat Sizing Requirements Stuck Down by United States Court of Appeals.pdf (65.77 kB)

FAA Airplane Seat Sizing Requirements Stuck Down by United States Court of Appeals

Download (65.77 kB)
journal contribution
posted on 2023-07-28, 19:01 authored by Stephen Fitzpatrick

The petitioned writ of mandamus was first argued on September 12, 2022. The petitioners, argued by Michael T. Kirkpatrick, represented the American non-profit FlyersRights. They are dedicated advocates for the rights and interests of airline passengers, specifically here calling for the FAA to require minimum seating sizing requirements. Their basis of argument focused on the necessity of safety for passengers, a right infringed by seats that slow down evacuation times and increases the likelihood of blood clots[1].

This is not the first time FlyersRights has come after the FAA. On August 26, 2015, the non-profit submitted a rulemaking petition to the FAA to establish minimum seat standards[2]. This was, however, denied by the administration. The FAA cited the adequacy of the emergency evacuation standards and found small seating to hold no effect on emergency evacuation times through their own testing. In response, FlyersRights appealed the FAA’s decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. On July 28, 2017, the appeals court agreed with FlyersRights, overruling the faulty tests and evidence provided by the FAA[3]. Congress, in response, passed two provisions in the 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act. This was signed into law on October 5, 2018, ordering the FAA to establish minimum seat standards[4]. The FAA was given one year from the date of enactment to establish such minimums. There was no such attempt made by the administration. FlyersRights’ petition was filed October 5, 2022, specifically calling for the FAA to “promulgate a regulation mandating minimum seat size standards for commercial airlines”[5].

On March 3, 2023, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit denied the petition. The conclusion was based on the lack of evidence suggesting necessity regarding the safety of passengers. It was deemed that there was found to be no substantial correlation between seat sizing and evacuation times, nor that of blood clot health risks to passengers. The decision proclaimed that although small seats can certainly cause soreness and stiffness, those conditions are not safety hazards; rather they are commonplace, temporary, and non-life-threatening discomforts[6]

FlyersRights has yet to file a legal response or comment on the decision.



American University (Washington, D.C.); Juris Mentem Law Review


This Article is brought to you for free and open access by the Juris Mentem Law Review. This article has been accepted for inclusion in the Juris Mentem Digital Collection. The Digital Collection is edited by Juris Mentem Staff but is not peer-reviewed by university faculty. For more information, visit: Questions can be directed to


Juris Mentem Law Review

Usage metrics

    Juris Mentem Law Review




    Ref. manager