Congressman Steve Cohen

Representing the 9th District of Tennessee

Reps. Cohen and Kinzinger, Senators Blumenthal, Schumer, Markey, Menendez and Feinstein Introduce Bipartisan, Bicameral SEAT Act

March 9, 2017
Press Release
Bill would establish minimum seat sizes for safety and health of U.S. airline passengers

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN), Congressman Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY), Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) today introduced the bipartisan, bicameral Seat Egress in Air Travel (SEAT) Act in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate. The SEAT Act would 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.

“Airline passengers are tired of being squeezed,” said Congressman Cohen. “Shrinking seat sizes in airplanes isn’t just a matter of comfort but the safety and health of passengers as well. Planes need to be capable of rapid evacuation in case of emergency. 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. I would like to thank Congressman Kinzinger, Senator Blumenthal, Senate Minority Leader Schumer, Senator Markey and Senator Menendez for their work on this issue, and I urge my colleagues to join us and help pass this bill.”

“I’m proud to join my colleague, Rep. Cohen, as we reintroduce the SEAT Act for the 115th Congress,” said Congressman Kinzinger.  “The SEAT Act will ensure standards are in place to guarantee effective passageways of evacuation for passenger safety.  With bipartisan and bicameral support, I’m hopeful we will get this important measure to the floor soon, get the bill signed into law, and make air travel safer for everyone.”

“As airlines’ profits skyrocket, passengers’ seats keep shrinking,” Senator Blumenthal said. “The incredible shrinking airline seat is more than just an inconvenience. Raising concerns of deadly blood clots and slowed evacuation, today’s cramped cabins threaten the health and safety of passengers. This commonsense bill would establish a minimum seat size and return some much-needed sanity to our skies.”

“The number one complaint I hear from travelers is shrinking legroom and cramped seats,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “Consumers are tired of being packed into airplanes like sardines while the airlines are cruising on record profits thanks to consolidation and super-low fuel prices. It’s just plain unfair that a person gets charged for extra legroom inches that were once standard. Congress should pass the bipartisan SEAT Act, which will finally require a standard for seat size and legroom on airlines.”

“Sky-high fees, technical meltdowns, along with little legroom and shrinking seats – if airlines aren’t squeezing every nickel and dime out their passengers for ridiculous fees or offering mea culpas for delays and cancellations caused by technical glitches, they are cramming passengers into small, narrow seats,” said Senator Markey. “We should ensure that passengers who’ve paid their fare are provided sufficient room and safe seats on airplanes. I’m proud to be an original cosponsor of the SEAT Act, and hope we can pass this legislation and provide passengers the much-needed dignity and relief they deserve.”

“The powerful airline industry will stop at nothing for the almighty dollar,” said Senator Menendez.  “Anyone who has flown recently has noticed the seats getting smaller and the legroom getting tighter, and have wondered if they need to go on a diet.  The reality is it’s the money-hungry airlines who need to curb their voracious appetite for profit at the expense of the flying public.  From charging bag fees and nickel-and-diming passengers for what used to be complimentary in-flight services, to shrinking the size of your seat so you’re packed in like sardines, the airlines continue to gouge its customers and make air travel uncomfortable and unaffordable.”

“From increased fees to shrinking seats, airline passengers are feeling the pinch all over,” said Senator Feinstein. “This bill isn’t just about comfort, it’s about creating safer conditions for millions of travelers. It protects consumers from being dangerously packed into planes, while also giving them the tools necessary to make informed seating choices when booking flights.”  

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.  

Congress is working to renew authorization for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) with the current authority set to expire on September 30, 2017. Congressmen Cohen and Kinzinger introduced the SEAT Act as an amendment to FAA Reauthorization legislation last year.

Congressman Cohen is a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation. Senators Blumenthal and Markey are members of the Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety and Security.

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