Congressman Steve Cohen

Representing the 9th District of Tennessee

Cohen Amendment Based on SEAT Act Included in FAA Reauthorization Bill

June 27, 2017
Press Release
Amendment would establish minimum seat sizes for safety and health of U.S. airline passengers

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee today passed an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization bill introduced by Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) to require the FAA to establish a minimum seat size on commercial airlines as well as a minimum distance between rows of seats to protect the safety and health of airline passengers. The Cohen Amendment was based on the bipartisan, bicameral Seat Egress in Air Travel (SEAT) Act (H.R. 1467/S.596), introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressman Cohen and Congressman Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Ed Markey (D-MA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).  

“I am pleased the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee recognized the serious safety and health concerns of shrinking airplane seats and passed this amendment to determine how small is too small,” said Congressman Cohen. “The SEAT Act will help ensure that reduced seat sizes on planes do not impede on the capability 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 enough during longer flights. I would like to thank Chairman Shuster and Ranking Member DeFazio for their work on this issue, as well as Congressman Kinzinger for his partnership on the SEAT Act.”

Video of Congressman Cohen speaking in support of his amendment at the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee meeting can be found here.

Congress is working to renew authorization for the FAA with the current authority set to expire on September 30, 2017.

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.  

Previous press coverage of the SEAT Act can be found at: NY Times; Chicago TribuneCBS Evening NewsCBS Morning NewsNBC’s Today ShowWashington PostUSA TodayWashington PostCNN