Published: October 2019

FAA evacuation tests could lead to unsafe and inhumane airline seating

The Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) upcoming passenger evacuation tests are designed with outdated standards that do not reflect the realities of today's airline travel marketplace, said a coalition of ten consumer and flyers' rights organizations in a letter sent to FAA Administrator Steve Dickson and Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Elaine Chao.

In September, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that that the agency will conduct tests of airplane evacuations involving 720 “demographically representative” people over 12 days in November 2019 in Oklahoma City. These tests, the first conducted by the FAA in nearly two decades, come in response to a Congressional mandate that the agency set minimum seat size standards in order to increase passenger safety. Unfortunately, the FAA appears to be pressing forward with the testing without input from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General, which is currently conducting an audit of evacuation testing standards, or the agency’s own emergency evacuation standards advisory committee. Furthermore, it appears the testing will not be conducted with full-scale airplane cabin mock-ups, but instead using smaller sections that don’t properly simulate packed airplanes.

The FAA's current evacuation testing standards do not account for multiple factors that could prevent safe evacuation in the legally-required 90-second threshold. For example, the current standards do not account for the presence of emotional support animals in the cabin, parents who may be separated from their children due to airlines’ family seating policies, or passengers with disabilities. In addition, the current evacuation standards do not account for the experience in recent emergencies of significant numbers of passengers attempting to bring personal items like roller bags with them as they evacuate. Nor do the standards effectively simulate the disruption from the widespread panic that can be expected in the event of an actual emergency.

Lead Organization

National Consumers League (NCL)

Other Organizations

National Consumers League | Business Travel Coalition | Consumer Action | Consumer Federation of America | Consumer Reports | | | Travel Fairness Now | Travelers United | U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund

More Information

Click here to read the full coalition letter.

For more information, please visit NCL's website.

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