April 15, 2016

Now Republicans want to take away your leg room

American Prospect- Last week, as it considered a bill that would re-authorize funding for the Federal Aviation Administration, the Senate defeated an amendment by Democrat Chuck Schumer, of New York, that would have blocked airlines from reducing the “size, width, padding, and pitch” of airline seats, the legroom between seats, and the width of the aisles. It would also have required the FAA to set minimum standards for the space airlines provide passengers to ensure their “safety, health, and comfort.”

Schumer’s amendment went down on a 42-to-54 vote, with every Republican voting against it except Maine’s Susan Collins, and every Democratic voting for it except a DLC-ish trio consisting of Delaware’s Tom Carper, Missouri’s Claire McCaskill, and Montana’s Jon Tester. Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz were off somewhere running for president; John Cornyn and Dick Durbin were also absent.

It’s hard to imagine that there are any actual airline passengers who fly coach who would oppose Schumer’s amendment. In recent years, the average width of a seat in coach has shrunk from 18 to 16.5 inches, while the average pitch—the space between one point on a seat and the same point on the seat in front of it—has shrunk from 35 to 31 inches. To get a seat with more legroom—with a 35-inch pitch—you now have to pay extra for what used to be the standard. The collapse of oil prices may have fattened the airlines’ coffers, but those profits haven’t been invested in any fatter seats.

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