When the Federal Aviation Agency’s funding was renewed in 2018, they were ordered by Congress to institute minimum dimensions for airplane seats within a year. The agency still has not done as they were instructed.

Now, however, the FAA is working towards rectifying this situation. The agency will take a step toward creating a new seat size regulation. With its advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) the FAA is announcing to the public that it is accepting comments and feedback on size standards for airplane seats. According to USA Today, anyone interested in voicing their opinion may do so during the 90-day period.

The notice reads, “Congress directed the FAA to, after notice and comment, issue such rules for minimum dimensions for passenger seats that are necessary for passenger safety. The FAA seeks public comment on the minimum seat dimensions that are necessary for passenger safety.”

For quite some time now, various organizations have been urging the FAA to establish seat size standards. FlyersRights.org, a group that fights for passengers’ rights, has been advocating for seat sizing standards since 2015.

The organization’s president, Paul Hudson, said, “Seats have continued to shrink by some airlines, and people are continuing to get larger. Our estimate is that only 20% of the population can reasonably fit in these seats now. It’s beyond a matter of comfort, or even emergency evacuation, there are serious health and safety issues when you’re put in cramped conditions for hours on end.”

In addition to the order to establish a minimum seat size, Congress’ 2018 legislation required the FAA to research the ways in which seat size contributes to safety on board aircraft.

Though the agency has performed evacuation tests and has also studied actual evacuations, the methods and data presented as a result have been criticized and deemed insufficient by some.

Testing was not performed on a real airplane, and the participating subjects were limited to able-bodied individuals aged 18 to 60 due to research standards that “prohibit older, younger or disabled people from participating in a simulation during which they could be injured.”

Having witnessed some of the testing, Hudson said it was “completely unrealistic.”

“Of the testing I witnessed, the ones that were in the narrower configurations, they were about 20% slower, but the conclusion of the reports was ‘no, it made no difference’ … but they didn’t release their data, just their conclusions.” 

Congressman Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., serves on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and said the FAA must use a wider variety of subjects to more accurately represent American travelers.

“They claim they couldn’t have people over a certain age or under a certain age because of liability factors. They’re going to have a lot of liability if planes crash and people die,” said Cohen.

Despite there still being no guarantee that seating standards will come to be, the results of the public input and testing may possibly lead to something, eventually. Anyone can provide a comment. Afterward, the FAA will review the responses received.

The agency’s funding will need to be reauthorized again in 2023, and Cohen believes there will be additional legislation requiring the FAA to address seat size standards.

Related: Congress Considers Bill That Would Increase Seat Size And Legroom On Airplanes