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U.S. senator wants government to set airline seat-size rules

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., a member of the Democratic leadership who also serves on the Judiciary Committee.

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer wants to require the Federal Aviation Administration to establish seat-size standards for commercial airlines, which he says now force passengers to sit on planes “like sardines.”

The New York Democrat told The Associated Press the airlines have been slowly cutting down legroom and seat width.

“One of the most vexing things when you travel on an airplane is there’s almost no legroom on your standard flight,” Schumer said. “There’s been constant shrinkage by the airlines.”

He said he will add an amendment to the FAA Reauthorization Bill that is pending before Congress that would require the agency to set the seat-size guidelines. Schumer planned to formally announce the proposal at a news conference Sunday.

Schumer said the average distance between rows of seats has dropped from 35 inches in the 1970s to a current average of about 16.5 inches. He argues that the requirement is needed to stop airlines from shrinking seats and seat pitch, the distance between rows of seats on airplanes, even further.

“They’re like sardines,” Schumer said of airplane passengers. “It’s no secret that airlines are looking for more ways to cut costs, but they shouldn’t be cutting inches of legroom and seat width in the process … It’s time for the FAA to step up and stop this deep-seated problem from continuing.”

Currently, there are no federal limits on how close an airline’s row of seats can be or how wide an airline’s seat must be.

Schumer pointed to a practice used by some airlines in which passengers are charged more money for seats with extra legroom. He says that “exemplifies” the problem.

“It’s just plain unfair that a person gets charged for extra inches that were once standard,” he said.

The FAA Reauthorization Bill is considered “must-pass” legislation, Schumer said. Congress typically renews the FAA’s authorization every four to six years, using the bill as an opportunity to address a wide range of aviation issues. A vote is expected in March.

An FAA spokesman did not immediately comment Saturday on Schumer’s proposal. Representatives with Airlines for America, an industry trade group that represents U.S. airlines, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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  • FAA’s standard work practice is to move as fast as a Glacier. Schumer would do well to put a time limit on the FAA to get this done.

    Not rocket science as most of the work has already been done. Two years max to do the study, put the standards out to the airlines.

    Yes, the airlines will whine like they were gut shot. Just tell them to shut up and deal with it.

    • LocalGuy, it’s Chuck Schumer the New York socialist who strongly believe it’s government that controls all our lives. This is a joke for it’s up to the Airlines and FAA for safety. Schumer is just blowing smoke and the SA got sucked in.

  • The quickest way to improve overall customer comfort for passengers flying economy or coach is to simply stop allowing seats to recline as much as they do. Maybe not an outright ban on reclining, but perhaps reduce the seat adjustment range by 60%. In the event of a sudden emergency you also wouldn’t have to worry so much about the passenger in front of you complying with the “fully upright position” instructions.

  • If the article is referring to seat pitch – 16.5″ seat pitch is incorrect and impossible and I seriously doubt there was 35″ of space “between” the rows in the 70’s.

    This is not somewhere that the FAA should be unless it is a safety issue. Passengers want cheaper fares, stockholders (passengers?) want profits – you can’t have always have both.

    • At a certain point reduced space between rows does become a safety issue as your egress is made more difficult and slowed during an emergency. FAA needs to set a standard in this case just as they do for the mininum width allowed for aisles.

  • I don’t have an issue with the seat width or legroom. However, something will need to be done when you observe the ability of passenger’s egress and regress moving in and out of seats especially during an emergency. I would recommend that those in Congress go to a simulator and go thru an emergency evac drill.

    • it is hard to make one size fits all, in a time when less than 30% of passengers are normal weight. they should not allow people over 200 pounds fly economy.

      • And they should be shorter than 60″. I have a hard time sitting in economy as my knees go right in to the seat in front of me. Then the guy ahead of me complains that he can’t lean back as my knees are not letting that happen. As much as possible, I go for the economy plus seats, but for some reason, short and skinny folks keep hogging them even though they don’t physically require the extra space.

    • Regress? Do you even know what that word means?
      Obviously you must be very short if you have no issue with the legroom. You used to be able to get into the window seat without disturbing the aisle passenger. No way that is possible today.

  • Like any public utility company, airlines were regulated to protect the public from being exploited by the utility with unfair charges as well as insure public safety and comfort. The airline industry petitioned to be de-regulated with the assurance that the competition will benefit the consumers fare-wise as wel as other benefits. Post de-regulation, the number of airlines decreased eliminating choice, fare and fee rates have increased, complimentary food service almost disappeared, sitting arrangements impacted passenger comfort and possible safety. Did de-regulation benefit only the airlines rather than the passengers? The answer is obvious! Appears the is complicit is rooting the flying public?

  • I don’t usually agree with Chuck,but this one,He’s got it right!Bottom line?The Airlines are killing us!
    Laura Graham radio show,did a air travel night mare segment.Where they talk about theses kinds of issues (lol) , the challenges we all face aboard air flights.

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