PHOTO: The SEAT Act of 2017, which would enforce a minimum seat width and distance between rows..(Photo via Flickr/Ronald Sarayudej)
The ever-shrinking size of your airline seat is the subject of a new bill in front of lawmakers this week. If passed, the SEAT Act of 2017 would task the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) with the additional responsibility of setting minimum limits on the width of an airplane seat as well as a minimum distance between rows.
"Airline passengers are tired of being squeezed," said Congressman Steve Cohen (D-Ten.), one of the bill’s authors, via a press release.
For Cohen, who sits on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation, the bill is mostly about passenger safety.
"Shrinking seat sizes in airplanes isn't just a matter of comfort but the safety and health of passengers as well,” he said. “Planes need to be capable of rapid evacuation in case of emergency.”
He also cites the potential threat of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) as a concern.
“...doctors have warned that deep vein thrombosis can afflict passengers who do not move their legs enough during longer flights,” he said. “The safety and health of passengers must come before airline profits.”
According to the press release, the average distance between seat rows has dropped four inches since airline deregulation in the 1970s. The average pitch is now about 31 inches, down from 35. During the same period, the width of an airlines seat has decreased from 18 inches to about 16 ½.
READ MORE: As noble as it is, SEAT Act won’t fly
The bi-partisan bill has been introduced in both the Senate and the House of Representatives and is co-authored by Congressman Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY), Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).
But while Congressman Cohen along with Congressman Kinzinger and Senator Feinstein cite safety concerns as the impetus for the bill, some of the other authors aren’t afraid to throw a little shade towards “money-hungry” airlines.
“Consumers are tired of being packed into airplanes like sardines while the airlines are cruising on record profits thanks to consolidation and super-low fuel prices,” said Senator Schumer.
Meanwhile, Senator Markey accused the airlines of charging “ridiculous fees,” while Senator Menendez cited their “voracious appetite for profit.”