Mandatory size standards for airline passenger seats may be on the horizon.
While airlines have amped up the amenities over the years—inflight Wi-Fi; hundreds of channels at your fingertips—and designed suites like never before, they've also put the squeeze on economy passengers by shrinking seat size and charging for carry-ons. And while most of us complain about our lack of legroom, one U.S. lawmaker is actually doing something about it.
U.S. Government Representative Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, plans to propose mandatory minimum-size standards for airline passenger seats, claiming that seats have been narrowed and pitch has been reduced at the cost of the consumer. By shrinking seats and the space between them, airlines are able to fit more people into planes, lower fares, and—yep—make more money. The average seat, said Cohen, "has shrunk from 18 inches in the 1970s to about 16.5 inches today." Pitch, the measurement of the distance from a seat to the one behind it, has shrunk from "35 inches during the 1970s to about 31 inches today."
But Cohen's bill isn't about comfort—it's mostly about safety: In his view, there hasn't been adequate emergency evacuation testing of airline seating with rows that have a pitch under 29 inches. Cohen will propose the legislation as an amendment to an FAA reauthorization bill on Thursday, which brings with it other potential game-changing laws in the aviation industry. Among them? Privatizing air traffic control, which would be a major shift.
Written by Katherine LaGrave - Conde Nast Traveler