Senate Passes Cohen-Kinzinger Airplane Seat Size Bill


SEAT Act now heads to President as part of FAA reauthorization 


WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), a senior member of the House Aviation Subcommittee, hailed today’s Senate passage of the bipartisan Cohen-Kinzinger Seat Egress in Air Travel (SEAT) Act as part of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill that now heads to the President’s desk.  The SEAT Act requires the FAA to establish minimum seat size and distance between rows of seats on commercial aircraft to protect the safety of the flying public.  

 Congressman Cohen made the following statement:

“Safety must never take a backseat, much less a shrunken seat, to profits. The safety of the public must be the airlines’ primary concern and  bill now requires the FAA to take it seriously. I’m proud that this measure  will soon be enacted into law.  I commend my colleagues for including this important safety measure in the FAA bill.” 

The SEAT Act was first introduced by Congressmen Cohen (D-Tennessee) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Illinois) in February 2016.  The Representatives reintroduced the SEAT Act in March 2017, joined this time by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), Charles Schumer (D-New York), Edward Markey (D-Massachusetts), Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey) and Dianne Feinstein (D-California).  

 What is the SEAT Act? 

The Safe Egress in Air Travel (SEAT) Act, H.R. 1467 requires the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to establish a minimum seat size and minimum distance between rows to protect the safety and health of airline passengers. 

The average distance between rows of seats has dropped from 35 inches before airline deregulation in the 1970s to about 31 inches today. The average width of an airline seat has also shrunk from 18 inches to about 16 ½.   

Legislative Timeline: 

February 8, 2016 – Reps. Steve Cohen  and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) introduce the SEAT Act (114th Congress – H.R. 4490)  

March 9, 2017 – Reps. Cohen and Kinzinger  reintroduce SEAT Act.  This time, they are joined by Senators Blumenthal, Schumer, Markey, Menendez and Feinstein (S. 596) 

June 27, 2017 – Rep. Cohen offers the SEAT Act as an amendment to a House FAA reauthorization bill during a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee markup.  The committee approved the amendment by voice vote.  Video of Congressman Cohen speaking in support of his amendment at the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee meeting can be found here. 

February 27, 2018 – Rep. Cohen directly questions FAA officials at a House Subcommittee on Aviation hearing on airline safety about the danger of shrinking seat size, the US Court of Appeals order requiring the FAA review its decision not to comply with a public petition on the matter. 

April 27, 2018 – The House of Representatives passes the FAA reauthorization bill containing the SEAT Act by a vote of 393-13. 

June 19, 2018 – As a result of questions raised by Rep. Cohen in a February aviation safety hearing and a letter from Transportation Committee Ranking Member DeFazio, the Department of Transportation’s Office of the Inspector General,announced an audit in the FAA’s oversight of evacuation procedures with specific regard to seat size, baggage, and issues raised by Rep. Cohen in the February hearing. 

September 23, 2018 – House and Senate negotiators announce new bipartisan, bicameral FAA reauthorization package that includes the SEAT Act. 

Previous press coverage of the SEAT Act can be found at:  

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