Packing too many passengers into aeroplanes may endanger their health and safety, new findings suggest. The issue is increasingly important because passengers are becoming wider and heavier.
The topic is under the spotlight in an investigation into plane loadings set up by the US Department of Transportation (DOT).
The consumer representative on the advisory group committee, Charlie Leocha, pointed out that the US government specifies the conditions under which dogs may be transported by air – yet it doesn’t impose minimum space standards for the transport of human passengers.
“In a world where animals have more rights to space and food than humans,” Leocha said, “it is time that the DOT and FAA [US Federal Aviation Administration] take a stand for humane treatment of passengers.”
Leocha, chairman and founder of Travelers United, is a recognised expert on affordable travel and the publisher of Consumer Traveler.
Middle seats are now seldom empty on packed US domestic flights, and elbows are frequently in contact. More passengers than ever are carrying bulky bags into the cabin. Tempers are frayed and air rage is increasing.
Air safety advocates are demanding that new tests be conducted on evacuating planes. Some of the tests were last carried out on aircraft with more leg-room (or pitch) than they have now. Airlines are constantly trying to shrink legroom so they can cram in more passengers.
Before any new jet is allowed to fly in the US, the manufacturer must prove that everybody can evacuate the plane in 90 seconds with half of the exits blocked.
Critics, however, say the tests are carried out by physically fit passengers in optimum conditions, The test subjects know the test is about to happen. Panic and smoke are not factored in. If the tests were more realistic, critics argue, airlines would not be allowed to pack so many passengers into an aircraft.
While passengers complain peridocally about lack of legroom, they have other competing irritations to gripe about. Last year, standards on US domestic flights fell in all four areas surveyed: baggage handling, consumer complaints, denied boardings and on-time arrivals.
Written by : Peter Needham