President of flight attendants union likens cramped airplane seating to a 'torture chamber'

Plane passengers aren’t the only ones peeved about the tight seating on current flights.

Lori Bassani, the president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (AFPA), repeatedly referred to the cramped seating situations as “torture” during a congressional hearing in front of a House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee on Wednesday.

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“We find that the seats are not only getting smaller, but there’s no padding on them anymore. It is a torture chamber for our customers and for us, that also fly on our own airlines,” Bassani said.

"People are having a hard enough time… getting in and out in a normal process, but in an evacuation, it’s going to be almost impossible.” said Lori Bassani, the president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, during a congressional subcommittee hearing on “State of Aviation Safety.”

"People are having a hard enough time… getting in and out in a normal process, but in an evacuation, it’s going to be almost impossible.” said Lori Bassani, the president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, during a congressional subcommittee hearing on “State of Aviation Safety.” (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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Bassani, whose union represents 28,000 American Airlines flight attendants, offered her testimony at the Subcommittee of Aviation’s hearing in the hopes that the FAA would conduct a review airplane standards and evacuation procedures — a review she claims is “overdue.”

Bassani testified that the current guidelines on seat pitch, or the distance between seats, does not allow some passengers to properly assume the “brace” position in the event of an emergency. She was also not confident that the cramped space would allow today’s passengers to evacuate in the time limit set forth by the FAA.

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“The truth is that many passengers are older, larger, and in many cases have less mobility,” her written testimony reads. During the hearing, she also stated that, unlike in the past, planes are routinely completely booked, and incidents of “air rage” are only increasing.

“Can you imagine in a stressful situation trying to evacuate in a real-life scenario?” she asked. “Passengers from a plane that is burning, or that is, you know, half-tilted, or upside-down. Listen, these people are having a hard enough time… getting in and out in a normal process, but in an evacuation, it’s going to be almost impossible.”

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In her written testimony, Bassani also addressed concerns for the regulations regarding air quality, rest time allotted for flight attendants and the rules regarding emotional support animals.

“Passengers look to us for reassurance in these difficult times,” she wrote. “Along with our flight deck, we want to know and be able to communicate to the traveling public that we have, and will continue to have, the safest aviation system in the world.”