Airline seat regulations

Update: Sunday, July 30th, 2017
D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Grants Victory to Flyers Rights

MILLETT, Circuit Judge: This is the Case of the Incredible Shrinking Airline Seat.

Original post from March 3, 2010.

This diatribe was prompted by this article:


 Hey, where's my airline seat?

which was also picked up as (with better comments):

Passenger Only Gets Half Her Seat On Delta Flight



Let's look at what the Federal Government has to say on this topic of airline seats:
[Code of Federal Regulations]
[Title 14, Volume 1]
[Revised as of January 1, 2001]
From the U.S. Government Printing Office via GPO Access
[CITE: 14CFR25.785]

[Page 409-411]
                   Subpart D--Design and Construction
Sec. 25.785  Seats, berths, safety belts, and harnesses.

    (a) A seat (or berth for a nonambulant person) must be provided for each occupant who has reached his or her second birthday.

Reading this we could say:
a seat which is broken, or occupied by something or someone else, is not a seat :-)
Therefore the aircraft is no longer airworthy. :-)

Obviously the intent of the regulation is the aircraft must have a place to sit for every passenger.
Standees, people rolling around on the floor or people sailing through the air are pretty clearly a hazard to all others on the plane.

I guess the key here is that there must be a seat for each passenger, no matter what size the passenger.

Or on another tack, if the passenger's assigned seat was occupied by a seat-belted piece of carry on luggage, the seat-belt would be undone and the bag would be moved or the seat could not be used. 

What difference is it that the obstruction happens to be part of another person?  If the obstruction was a detached artificial limb, that would have to be moved as well for the seat to be used.

Since the total number of seats on the plane has been reduced by one, the procedures for overbooking would then come into play.

Much more frightening is that apparently the law has not kept up with American weights. Apparently, airline passengers should weight 170 pounds or less.

[...Same title...]
(f) Each seat or berth, and its supporting structure, and each safety belt or harness and its anchorage must be designed for an occupant weight of 170 pounds, considering the maximum load factors, inertia forces, and reactions among the occupant, seat, safety belt, and harness for each relevant flight and ground load condition (including the emergency landing conditions prescribed in Sec. 25.561).

And come to think of it, I'm pretty sure that some carrier's seats do not provide "a firm handhold"

[...Even further down in the same title...]
(j) If the seat backs do not provide a firm handhold, there must be
a handgrip or rail along each aisle to enable persons to steady
themselves while using the aisles in moderately rough air.
Food for thought...