Congressman loses battle in war on shrinking airline seats

(Photo: Shutterstock)

(CNN)–A congressional soldier fighting a war against shrinking airline seats lost a battle in the U.S. House Thursday.

In a 26-33 vote, a House committee defeated legislation that would have mandated size standards for airline passenger seats. “I am disappointed,” Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tennessee, said in a statement. “This was a vote against the safety and health of airline passengers.”

Cohen says that seat width on U.S. airliners “has shrunk from 18 inches in the 1970s to about 16.5 inches today.”

The issue, he says, is more about safety than comfort. He says the Federal Aviation Administration is putting passengers at risk because there hasn’t been adequate emergency evacuation testing of airline seating with rows set with pitch under 29 inches. “Pitch” is the distance between any point on one seat to the same point on the seat in front.

The vote came as the House transportation committee was voting on amendments to a bill to fund the FAA.

Cohen wants the FAA to study seat safety regarding size and then, if necessary, issue minimum or specific seat sizes as a mandated federal industry standard.

Before the vote, other committee members said the existing bill already included provisions to evaluate airline evacuations. But Cohen said in general, airline seats are “hard to get out of” and “they keep getting smaller and smaller.”

“We’re down to four major carriers and they do what they want,” Cohen said, referring to recent mergers of the nation’s large airlines.

In response, Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Illinois, told Cohen, “I think we got to the root of the issue as a whole. It’s your issue with the airline industry.”

The powerful Washington airline lobbying group Airlines for America opposes the idea. In a statement on Wednesday, the group said, “… the government should not regulate, but instead market forces, which reflect consumer decisions, and competition should determine what is offered. … And as with any commercial product or service, customers vote every day with their wallet.”

Cohen said he isn’t planning to give up his crusade. He’s promising to try to add it to the bill again when it comes to the floor of the House.

WTNH NEWS8 provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Also, you can now block any inappropriate user by simple selecting the drop down menu on the right of any comment and selection "Block User" from there.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s