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In re FlyersRights Education Fund

Although passenger space on commercial aircraft has shrunk dramatically over time, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has never established minimum passenger space regulations for commercial airlines. The shrinking seat-size and space poses health risks to passengers and raises concerns about effective evacuation in case of emergency. Accordingly, in 2018, following years of organizing and advocacy from consumer and safety advocates, Congress passed a law requiring the FAA to promulgate rules addressing minimum seat size and seat spacing on commercial airlines. The 2018 Act required the FAA to complete the rulemaking establishing minimum seat and passenger space requirements by October 5, 2019.

More than three years after passage of the law and more than two years after the statutory deadline, the FAA had not even begun the statutorily required rulemaking. Representing FlyersRights Education Fund, Public Citizen filed a petition in the D.C. Circuit asking the court to hold that the FAA was violating the law and directing the FAA to issue the required regulations. The court, however, held that the statute required the FAA to issue a minimum seat dimension regulation by October 2019 only if a rule was necessary for passenger safety and that it was not “indisputable” that current seat dimensions are dangerously small. The court therefore denied the petition.