Congressman wants to tackle shrinking legroom on airlines

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
A JetBlue Airways plane backs out of a gate at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on April 27, 2017. (Photo by Todd DeFeo/The DeFeo Groupe)

A Congressman from Tennessee wants to tackle shrinking legroom on the nation’s airlines.

U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., offered the bipartisan, bicameral Seat Egress in Air Travel (SEAT) Act as an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization bill. That measure is to be considered before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee today.

According to Cohen, 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 also shrunk from 18 inches to about 16 1/2 during that time.

“Shrinking seats on airplanes raise serious safety and health concerns for passengers, and it’s time for the FAA to take action,” Cohen, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said in a statement. “We must be certain that planes are capable of rapid evacuation in case of emergency as longstanding federal law requires.

“Emergency evacuation is a serious issue, as is the potential for air rage as tensions mount inside more tightly packed cabins. In addition, doctors have warned that deep vein thrombosis can afflict passengers who do not move their legs during longer flights,” Cohen added. “The safety and health of passengers must come before airline profits. I urge my colleagues on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to support this amendment.”

The proposal is H.R. 1467/S.596.

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