Sometimes, when I'm flying on the airlines, I'll board an aircraft where the aisles seem incredibly cramped, where it's almost impossible to move past without bumping every seat. I can't imagine how much of a nuisance it'd be for people larger than me! I once saw an obese person a bit stuck between one of the aisles, blocking the way for others to move into the aircraft.

But then I thought about what would happen in an emergency. What if there were numerous large people on board, and there was a fire?

So, are there any limits to how much the airlines can squeeze their planes' aisles?

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    $\begingroup$ as long as they can prove they can get everyone out of the plane in 90 seconds then it's fine $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 5, 2014 at 0:15
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    $\begingroup$ @ratchetfreak I often wonder if they put "average sized" (bloody massive) Americans on the plane for the egress tests, or if they can still find "FAA Standard 170 pound humans" to fill the seats... $\endgroup$
    – voretaq7
    Commented Apr 5, 2014 at 5:52
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    $\begingroup$ @voretaq7 there was a bit of a scandal on that. A certain US maker of widebody jets was using airforce cadets in running gear for the tests. Eu regulations now require a mix of ages and sizes, although this did result in a few broken legs in the A380 tests. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 6, 2014 at 16:21

1 Answer 1


For a transport category airplane with 20 or more seats the minimum aisle width is 15 inches from the floor to a height of 25 inches, and 20 inches width above a height of 25 inches.

Width of aisle.

The passenger aisle width at any point between seats must equal or exceed the values in the following table:

Aisle width table

1A narrower width not less than 9 inches may be approved when substantiated by tests found necessary by the Administrator.


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