There Could Finally Be a Law About Minimum Airplane Seat Sizes


Imagine what you’d do with all that extra legroom. (Photo: iStock)

A congressman is fighting for your right to sit more comfortably on a plane. This week, Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., introduced the Seat Egress in Air Travel (SEAT) Act, demanding that the Federal Aviation Administration set minimum seat-size standards.

Fliers have been complaining about shrinking seat space for years as airlines find more and more dehumanizing ways to cut costs. But the issue got a boost last fall when consumer journalist Christopher Elliott, the co-founder of advocacy group Travelers United, wrote an op-ed piece in the Washington Post. After the essay was published, he told Yahoo Travel about the readers who reached out to him: “After the Washington Post story, I heard from so many people who said, ‘I was on a flight and didn’t have any room,’ People are saying it’s about time someone said this because we don’t feel we’re being treated like people.”

Related: Cramped Airplane Seats: Are Airlines Violating Our Human Rights?

Now, Congressman Cohen seems to be taking up the cause. In an announcement about the bill on his website, Cohen noted that seat width has shrunk from 18 inches to 16.5 inches in the past 45 years, and that the distance between seat rows has shrunk from 35 to 31 inches. His concerns are both health related and safety focused.

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He explains: “Shrinking seats raise safety and health concerns, and it’s time for the FAA to take action. The FAA requires that planes be capable of rapid evacuation in case of emergency, yet they haven’t conducted emergency evacuation tests on all of today’s smaller seats. Doctors have also warned that deep vein thrombosis can afflict passengers who can’t move their legs during longer flights. Consumers are tired of being squeezed both physically and fiscally by airlines.”

Related: Passenger Almost Kicked Off Plane for Being ‘Too Big’

Cohen plans to add his SEAT Act to the FAA Reauthorization bill coming up in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (of which he is a member) on Thursday. After that, we’ll have to wait and see if this big idea takes off … and what passengers will have to pay for it.

WATCH: Behind the Scenes: How an Emergency Airplane Evacuation Works

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Follow Billie Cohen on Twitter and Instagram at @billietravels.