Flight attendants are speaking out about the increasingly unsafe effects of cramped and uncomfortable airline seats.
A flight attendant union representative decried the “torture chamber” aboard airlines with cramped seating before a House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee hearing on Wednesday.
(Video: YouTube/House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee)
Lori Bassani, national president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants – which represents more than 28,000 American Airlines flight attendants – testified about the confining conditions and the safety risk they pose during the Congressional hearing.
“It is a torture chamber for our passengers and for us, that also fly on our own airlines,” Bassani said.
“We find that the seats are not only getting smaller, but there’s no padding on them anymore,” she added.
Despite federal regulations that require airlines be capable of being evacuated within 90 seconds in the case of an emergency, Bassani noted this was “almost impossible” given present seating configurations.
“The passengers already — in the normal case of getting on or off the airplane — are having difficult times getting into the aisle to sit down,” Bassani said. “Can you imagine in a stressful situation trying to evacuate, in a real-life scenario, passengers from a plane that is burning or that is half tilted or upside down?”
Airlines looking to cover the most ground by offering the lowest prices often forgo customer comfort in an effort to maximize the number of passengers on every flight. But this also leads to the safety concerns as Bassani noted. The Federal Aviation Administration was ordered by a federal court in 2017 to gauge the possibility of regulating seat dimensions, something the agency did not proceed to do.
But the “FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018” passed by Congress last year now requires the FAA to specify “minimums for seat pitch, width, and length, and that are necessary for the safety of passengers.”
American Airlines reportedly is committed to “making sure our passengers and team members are safe” and supports the review of seat dimensions by the FAA, airline spokeswoman Leslie Scott told CNN.
Meanwhile, Bassani told Congress that watching passengers struggle to get into tight seating arrangements is “distressing.”
“I know many of you on this committee travel each week and personally understand the challenges of air travel today. Believe me, we feel your frustrations,” she said, noting how flight attendants serve as first responders on airlines and “the last line of defense should the unthinkable happen again.”
“As seat size and leg room continue to shrink, frustrations rise,” Bassani testified, noting the increase of “unprecedented levels of air rage.”
She noted the dangers the shrinking spaces create in emergency situations. explaining how passengers no longer have the room to assume the proper brace position in an emergency landing.
“I want to thank you for the seat I’m in today,” Bassani told the committee chairman, “because it’s a lot more comfortable than what I flew down here in.”
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