Congressmen to Propose Minimum Seat Sizes on Aircraft

Congressman Steve Cohen and Congressman Adam Kinzinger to reintroduce Seat Egress in Air Travel (SEAT) Act in January By: Valerie Chen
The SEAT Act could regulate seat sizes onboard aircraft. // © 2017 iStock
The SEAT Act could regulate seat sizes onboard aircraft. // © 2017 iStock

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The Details

What:
Congressman Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation, and Congressman Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) recently announced that they will reintroduce the Seat Egress  in Air Travel (SEAT) Act when Congress convenes this month.

Why It Matters:
If passed, the SEAT Act would establish a universal code on seat sizes onboard commercial aircraft, as well as a minimum distance between rows. Today, the average distance between rows of seats is 31 inches, compared to the 35 inches before airline deregulation in the 1970s. An airline seat’s average width has also dropped, from 18 inches to about 16 1/2 inches. Cohen and Kinzinger argue that, potential physical discomfort aside, the current airline configurations pose a threat to passenger safety and health — an opinion many travel agents and clients can agree on.

Fast Facts:
- The SEAT Act was first announced by Cohen and Kinzinger as a bipartisan amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Bill in 2016.

- The new Congress will work toward renewing authorization for the FAA with the current authority set to expire on Sept. 30, 2017.

What They Are Saying:
“The time to examine the safety implications of smaller airplane seats is now, not after some future tragedy,” Cohen said. “Planes need to be capable of rapid evacuation in case of emergency, yet appropriate testing has not been conducted by the FAA on all of today's smaller seats. In addition, doctors have warned that deep vein thrombosis can afflict passengers who don't move their legs during longer flights. The safety and health of passengers must come first. That is why Congressman Kinzinger and I will be reintroducing the SEAT Act early next year during the new Congress.”

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