“It’s a torture chamber…” The fight to make airplane seating more comfortable

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Little leg room and narrow seats make air travel not only less comfortable but also dangerous, according to experts testifying before congress. “In an emergency landing, passengers no longer have enough space to assume the proper brace conditions,” said Lori Bassani of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants.

Her testimony is just the latest effort to make flying safer after decades of shrinking seats and packed flights.

Since 1985, economy class seats have narrowed by about three inches on average and have lost between one and six inches of leg room. Flight attendants worry that decreased space and increased passenger loads could lead to a disaster.

In an emergency, flight attendants must be able to evacuate a plane within 90 seconds. Experts believe that the way passengers are packed into flights now, that proper evacuation isn’t possible.

In 2017, a federal court ordered the Federal Aviation Administration to review airplane seat size regulations. They didn’t. So last October, congress stepped in.

In order to continue operating, the FAA agreed to issue regulations for minimum passenger seat dimensions. This doesn’t mean flying is going to be more comfortable, just safer.

“We find that the seats are not only getting smaller, but there’s no padding on them anymore. It’s a torture chamber for our customers and us.”

Lori Bassani, The Association of Professional Flight Attendants

 If you want comfort, let’s look at Colorado. Here, designers at Molon Labe Seating are trying to improve the middle seat.

Here’s how their design works: the middle seat is moved behind the aisle and window seats a few inches and made slight lower to the ground. This allows designers to increase the width of the seat and for passengers in the middle seat to have access to arm-rests.

The company has sold the design to two unnamed airlines, one of which is based in North America.

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