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Shrinking plane seats – declining safety for passengers?

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These days, some flights are getting cheaper and more frequent, making that city break to Rome so much easier. But it seems that with cheaper seats, there may be a small compromise being made: airlines are making economy aeroplane seats smaller and smaller.

To save money, airlines are reportedly packing their planes with as many passengers as they can by redesigning seats to be thinner and reducing leg room. These changes aren’t just to the detriment of taller people who may have to almost hug their knees or sit at an awkward angle to squeeze their legs in sideways, but reducing the space between seats may reportedly be putting passengers’ lives at risk.

Anyone who has been on a commercial flight is familiar with the laminated illustration showing passengers what to do in the event of an emergency. One of the manoeuvres is getting into the brace position when the emergency warning “brace, brace” is called out. Passengers are essentially supposed to remain seated, lean forward and cradle your head or hug your knees. However, with diminished head strike zone, passengers are apparently not afforded this space to get into the emergency position and may hit their heads on the seat in front.

This is one problem that some people are taking issue with and taking the airline companies to task on.

Here’s another issue people are not happy with: packing passengers into planes could also reduce the passengers’ ability to get out of the aircraft quickly and safely. In extreme circumstances when a landed aircraft is on fire or about to sink, passengers need to get out of the plane as quickly as possible. Trying to get out in an emergency may lead to some passengers getting trapped, or jumping over seats to get out and causing injuries.

Here are some new changes to be expected:

  • American Airlines to add two more rows of six seats in its Boeing 737-800 fleet economy class
  • American Airlines to add nine more seats to its Airbus A321s
  • JetBlue are to add 12 more seats in its A320s

Reports are also showing that the tests to see if passengers can get out quickly and safely are massively outdated. In standard static testing dating back to the 50s, volunteers are used and it only takes 90 seconds for them to evacuate the plane. But these people are aware of what’s going to happen and the test happens in a plane hangar – hardly a simulation of an emergency scenario where there might be smoke, fire, stress and chaos.

Non-profit organisations like FlyersRights.org have brought lawsuits against the US Federal Aviation Administration raising the above concerns and calling for standards to be reviewed and updated, prompting a Court to warn of “a plausible life-and-death safety concern.”

Seat manufacturers are revelling in the changes by designing narrower seats, removing seat pockets, slimming down arm rests and have even designed a carbon fibre seat that is three inches thinner as the lack of metal requires less padding. Of course, this isn’t bad news for everyone, just those of us who fly economy as passengers flying in business and first class are not expected to see the same changes.

President of FlyersRights, Paul Hudson, said the disparity in seating standards between classes is “a Titanic waiting to happen.”

These changes are justified by airlines as “necessary” in order to keep fares low, but in the interests of saving us a few pounds and making them more profit, it could be compromising our safety and even our lives. As much as we encourage innovative ideas, new products also need adequate testing and up-to-date standards.

IMPORTANT: advice on this page is intended to be up-to-date for the 'first published date'.

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First published by Admin on December 25, 2017
Posted in the following categories: Holidays Abroad and tagged with


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