Congress considers bill to halt shrinking airplane seats, legroom


A push to keep airline seats from shrinking has reached the nation’s capitol.

Legislation introduced by U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D, New York, and co-sponsored by several senators, including U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, D, Hawaii, would require the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to mandate minimum seat size standards.

The FAA would be required to set minimum seat width, legroom, padding, and aisle width on all commercial passenger planes, with input from experts and consumer advocates.

Read the bill in its entirety here.

“The fight is not over, and there is a looming confrontation between the airlines that are going to be reducing seat size more and passengers that are really fed up,” said Paul Hudson with FlyersRights.org, which supports the bill.

Hudson urges supporters to “contact their Congressmen and their Senators and indicate that this is a real priority for them.”

The bill comes after the Hawaii State Senate passed a resolution, SR121, that urges the federal Secretary of Transportation to set minimum sizes for airplane seats.

“In Hawaii, air travel is central to our visitor industry, and residents depend on it for work, health care, and to visit family,” said Schatz. “Passengers in Hawaii and across the country are tired of getting less and less space for their hard-earned money. It is time to have the FAA step in to say enough is enough.”

Currently, there are no federal standards on the width of airline seats or on legroom length.

Since 1978, legroom decreased from 35 inches to about 31 inches. Similarly, the average seat width on airlines has dropped from 18.5 inches in the 1990s to approximately 17 inches today.

KHON2 found travelers at Honolulu International Airport had mixed opinions on the issue.

“I think that’d be great,” said traveler Aaron Palone. “It would be a lot better, because if you go from one airline to the next, it could be big or small. It should be standardized across the board so that way you have plenty of space and more comfort.”

Meanwhile, Bill Hottell, who is visiting from Washington, said he had “no real strong opinion. It certainly would be more comfortable for folks flying, but to me, comfort is not the most important thing at all.”

Traveler John McInnis disagreed, saying “it’s very important. I see it as much as safety as it is a comfort issue.”

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