U.S. Representatives Steve Cohen (D-Tennessee) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Illinois) in early 2017 plan to re-introduce legislation in Congress that would establish a minimum seat size on commercial air transport aircraft as well as a minimum distance between rows of seats. The so-called Seat Egress in Air Travel (SEAT) Act previously was introduced as an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill last year.
“The time to examine the safety implications of smaller airplane seats is now, not after some future tragedy,” said Cohen, who maintains that the average distance between rows of seats has declined from 35 in (89 cm) in the 1970s to 31 in (79 cm) today. The average width of an airline seat has shrunk from 18 in (46 cm) to about 16.5 in (42 cm). “Planes need to be capable of rapid evacuation in case of emergency, yet appropriate testing has not been conducted by the FAA on all of today’s smaller seats. In addition, doctors have warned that deep vein thrombosis can afflict passengers who don’t move their legs during longer flights. The safety and health of passengers must come first,” he said.
“This legislation is important to ensure our aircraft’s seats are of a big enough size to guarantee effective passageways of evacuation for passenger safety,” Kinzinger said in a news release.