It’s that time of year again. Members of Congress have put forward another bill to mandate minimum seat pitch on commercial flights in the USA.
The bipartisan bill is called the Seat Egress in Air Travel (SEAT) Act. Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN) is the primary sponsor. In a press release defending the proposed bill, he asserted–
Airline passengers are tired of being squeezed. Shrinking seat sizes in airplanes isn’t just a matter of comfort but the safety and health of passengers as well. Planes need to be capable of rapid evacuation in case of emergency. In addition, doctors have warned that deep vein thrombosis can afflict passengers who do not move their legs enough during longer flights. The safety and health of passengers must come before airline profits.
So what would this bill do?
The bill merely passes the buck to the FAA. Its text is short:
To direct the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration to prescribe regulations establishing minimum standards for space for passengers on passenger aircraft, and for other purposes
Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) added–
As airlines’ profits skyrocket, passengers’ seats keep shrinking. The incredible shrinking airline seat is more than just an inconvenience. Raising concerns of deadly blood clots and slowed evacuation, today’s cramped cabins threaten the health and safety of passengers. This commonsense bill would establish a minimum seat size and return some much-needed sanity to our skies.
I hate how politicians wrap this issue around profit and safety. The issue, especially in a global market, is much more complex. And in the USA domestic market, the issue is also more complex.
For example, the press release contains this–
The average distance between rows of seats has dropped from 35 inches before airline deregulation in the 1970s to about 31 inches today. The average width of an airline seat has also shrunk from 18 inches to about 16 ½.
But it does not mention how INCREDIBLY cheaper airfare is today than during the regulation era. Here’s something they can defend in their districts — “My airfare went up 40% so I could have an extra inch of legroom?!”
Because if you force carriers to rip out seats, they will make up for it.
I am not anti-regulation. I support consumer protections on ground delays, post-booking cancellations, and fee disclosures. But on minimum legroom and seat width I just shake my head in disbelief. Consumers have come out way ahead thanks to Deregulation — for all we’ve lost, it has made airfare more affordable for the masses. What do you think?