Senate Votes Against Minimum Legroom, Spacing Standards For Airline Seats

Image courtesy of bluwmongoose

Earlier this year, Sen. Chuck Schumer (NY) said he would try to get federal regulators to come up with limits for airline seat size and spacing. But yesterday, his fellow senators shot down that effort.

Schumer’s legislation — introduced as an amendment to the bill reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration — would have required the FAA to set a minimum standard seat size for commercial airlines. The goal, said the senator, was to establish a hard line that the airlines could not cross in their effort to squeeze more passengers on to planes.

Existing seat sizes and spacing would remain in place, but any future changes would have to remain above whatever minimum the FAA set.

Airlines would have also been required to post information about their seat sizes so that travelers could use this information to help make their choice of carrier.

“Over the last few decades, between the size of the seat and the distance between the seats, the flying public has lost half a foot of their space,” said Schumer before yesterday’s vote. “You would think that by cramming in more and more passengers on each flight, the airlines could lower their prices. Instead, several major airlines went in the other direction: They started charging for the extra inches and legroom that were once considered standard. So it practically costs you an arm and a leg just to have space for your arms and legs.”

In the end, the Senate voted 54-42 against adopting this amendment to the FAA reauthorization. Voting was primarily along party lines, with one Republican (Susan Collins of Maine) voting in favor of the amendment, and three Democrats (Tom Carper of Delaware, Missouri’s Claire McCaskill, and Jon Tester of Montana) voting against.

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