Mandatory Minimum Seat Size Requirement Added to FAA Bill

Jun 29, 2017

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

It’s not news to anyone who has flown in the past few years that seats are getting tighter. Seat pitch — the distance between seatbacks — has decreased almost industry-wide to no more than 31 inches. Ultra-low cost carriers like Spirit and Frontier push the limits of human flexibility with just 28 inches of pitch.

American Airlines recently announced it was dropping pitch to just 29 inches on some rows — before getting so much blowback that it reversed its decision and promised no less than 30 inches of pitch on its forthcoming Boeing 737 MAX.

29 inches of seat pitch.
A 5 foot 11 inch man showing how tight 29 inches of seat pitch is.

While flying premium economy is one way for you to get more legroom, there are concerns that the tight pitch in economy seats might actually be a safety issue in case the aircraft needs to be evacuated.

Last year, Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN) introduced the “SEAT Act” (Safe Egress in Air Travel Act of 2016). This bill would’ve required the Secretary of Transportation to set “minimum dimensions for passenger seats on aircraft operated by any air carrier in the provision of interstate air transportation or intrastate air transportation.” The bill failed to reach a vote and died. A new version of the same bill has been introduced in March of this year (H.R. 1467/S.596).

But, the biggest progress toward minimum seat sizes was made this week. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee voted to include the “Cohen Amendment” in its Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization bill. This amendment will “require the FAA to establish a minimum seat size on commercial airlines as well as a minimum distance between rows of seats to protect the safety and health of airline passengers.”

Congressman Cohen hails the measure as critical for safety:

The SEAT Act will help ensure that reduced seat sizes on planes do not impede on the capability of rapid evacuation in case of emergency as longstanding federal law requires. Emergency evacuation is a serious issue, as is the potential for air rage as tensions mount inside more tightly packed cabins. In addition, doctors have warned that deep vein thrombosis can afflict passengers who do not move their legs enough during longer flights.

What do you think? Should the FAA set minimum seat size requirements?

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points


CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
  • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.