Congressman Cohen Praises Passage of SEAT Act

September 26, 2018
Press Release
Federal Aviation Administration bill will set minimum airline seat sizes

WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), a senior member of the House Aviation Subcommittee, praised passage of his Seat Egress in Air Travel (SEAT) Act he introduced that was made a part of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill that passed the House today. The vote was 398 to 23. See his floor remarks here.

The SEAT Act provision requires the FAA to establish minimum seat size and distance between rows of seats to meet the 90-second emergency airplane evacuation time currently mandated by federal regulation.

Congressman Cohen introduced the bipartisan SEAT Act, H.R. 1467, with Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-Illinois).  Congressman Cohen offered the legislation as an amendment during the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s consideration of FAA reauthorization legislation last year.  The amendment was adopted by voice vote, prior to full House passage in April.

Congressman Cohen made the following statement:

“Safety should not take a back seat, especially a shrunken seat, to airline profits. Tightly cramped seating on aircraft is a safety issue, and will now be taken seriously. The SEAT Act will ensure that shrinking seats on airplanes are evaluated in the interest of the safety of the flying public. I commend my colleagues for including this important safety measure in the FAA bill.”

The five-year reauthorization of FAA programs came after five extensions prior to Sunday’s September 30 deadline. Key House and Senate negotiators reached an agreement last Friday evening and released the text of H.R. 302, a consensus bill that includes nearly $1.7 billion in federal disaster relief for Hurricane Florence victims.


SEAT Act Legislative Timeline

What is the SEAT Act?

The Safe Egress in Air Travel (SEAT) Act, H.R. 1467 requires the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to establish a minimum seat size and minimum distance between rows to protect the safety and health of airline passengers.

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.  

Legislative Timeline:

February 8, 2016 – Reps. Steve Cohen (a senior member of the House Subcommittee on Aviation) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) introduce the SEAT Act (114th Congress – H.R. 4490)

March 9, 2017 - Reps. Steve Cohen (a senior member of the House Subcommittee on Aviation) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) reintroduce SEAT Act.  This time, they are joined by Senators Blumenthal, Schumer, Markey, Menendez and Feinstein (S. 596)

June 27, 2017 – Rep. Cohen offers the SEAT Act as an amendment to a House FAA reauthorization bill during a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee markup.  The committee approved the amendment by voice vote.  Video of Congressman Cohen speaking in support of his amendment at the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee meeting can be found here.

February 27, 2018 – Rep. Cohen directly questions FAA officials at a House Subcommittee on Aviation hearing on airline safety about the danger of shrinking seat size, the US Court of Appeals order requiring the FAA review its decision not to comply with a public petition on the matter.

April 27, 2018 – The House of Representatives passes the FAA reauthorization bill containing the SEAT Act by a vote of 393-13.

June 19, 2018 – As a result of questions raised by Rep. Cohen in a February aviation safety hearing and a letter from Transportation Committee Ranking Member DeFazio, the Department of Transportation’s Office of the Inspector General, announced an audit in the FAA’s oversight of evacuation procedures with specific regard to seat size, baggage, and issues raised by Rep. Cohen in the February hearing.

September 23, 2018 – House and Senate negotiators announce new bipartisan, bicameral FAA reauthorization package that includes the SEAT Act.

Previous press coverage of the SEAT Act can be found at: 

Washington Post; USA Today; NY Times; CBS News, The Hill; Chicago TribuneTravel Weekly; CBS Evening NewsCBS Morning NewsNBC’s Today ShowWashington PostUSA TodayWashington PostCNN; NYT Editorial Board