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Congress Is Addressing Cramped Airplane Seats This Week, an Irritating Issue on Both Sides of the Aisle

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© Johan Marengrd / EyeEm Getty Images/EyeEm Congress could require the Federal Aviation Administration to provide larger seats and more legroom on planes.

By Erin Corbett, Fortune

Legislation being considered in the House this week could require the Federal Aviation Administration to provide larger seats and more legroom to passengers, the Associated Press reported. The legislation is part of a 5-year extension of FAA programs, and Congress will have until September 30 to keep the programs running.

The average airline seat has shrunk in recent years, with the width dropping from 18 inches to 17 inches or less, USA Today reported. But as seat sizes shrink, passengers are also getting bigger, making air travel even more inaccessible to some. One survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that an average woman who weighed 140 pounds in 1960 weighed close to 169 pounds by 2014.

“Relief could soon be on the way for weary airline passengers facing smaller and smaller seats,” said Florida Democrat, Sen. Bill Nelson, according to the Associated Press.

With $14.7 billion in profits in 2017, a figure that was up 7.4% over 2016, the airline industry has the means to give back to passengers.
Currently, JetBlue is known to offer the most legroom to passengers, at 34 inches, with Spirit far behind, offering just 28 inches of legroom, Insider reported last year. That’s not much space to travel in comfort.

But this is not the first time the government has weighed in on the ever-shrinking airplane seat. In February, the FAA released a report on the trend, but in July refused to intervene. Days later, the Washington D.C. Court of Appeals found in favor of Flyers Rights, ordering aviation regulators to consider setting minimum standards for the space airlines.

The proposed bill would also ban airlines from bumping passengers who have already boarded the plane—when an airline forces a passenger off an overbooked flight. It would also order a minimum of 10 hours of rest for flight attendants between shifts.

The chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, the South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune said the bill is expected to move through Congress quickly, for optimal legroom soon.

But remember, with more legroom comes great responsibility. (So, easy on the reclining, please.)

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