A bipartisan group of US lawmakers has introduced a bill that would mandate a minimum seat size on commercial airlines and a minimum distance between rows of seats, saying the rules are needed to help protect the safety and health of passengers.
“Planes need to be capable of rapid evacuation in case of emergency,” said Representative Steve Cohen, a Democrat from Tennessee who co-sponsored the bill along with Representative Adam Kinzinger, a Republican of Illinois, and fellow Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, Senator Ed Markey, Senator Bob Menendez, and Senator Dianne Feinstein.
“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.”
“It’s just plain unfair that a person gets charged for extra legroom inches that were once standard,” added Schumer.
The lawmakers noted that the average distance between airline seat rows dropped from 35 inches, before the US airline industry was deregulated in the 1970s, to about 31 inches today. The average width of an airline seat has decreased from 18 inches to about 16.5 inches over the same period.
The bill does not specify what the minimum size of an airline seat should be, but calls on the US Secretary of Transportation to do so.
The measure is likely to be added as an amendment to a bill reauthorising the Federal Aviation Administration, whose current authority expires in September 2017. Similar legislation was introduced in Congress in 2016, but was successfully opposed by the airline industry.