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Airlines Squeeze Flyers; Congress Says ‘OK’

Travelers who grumble that the airlines have gone too far in shrinking the width and legroom of coach-class seats won’t be getting any relief from Congress any time soon.

Yesterday, the Senate voted down a bill proposed by Chuck Schumer (D-NY) that would have set standards for airline seating and prohibited airlines from further reducing the “size, width, padding, and pitch” of seats. The proposed amendment to the FAA reauthorization bill also would have required airlines to post their seats’ dimensions on their websites.

RELATED: Airline Complaints Highest in 15 Years. Why?

The bill was defeated 42-54, with most Democrats voting in favor and most Republicans against.

In comments following the bill’s defeat, Schumer vowed to continue fighting for legislation to establish minimum seat sizes.

When talking to travelers, the number one complaint I hear is shrinking legroom and cramped seats—unfortunately that’s a message most republicans in Congress chose to ignore. Airlines have been cramming consumers into airplanes like sardines and instead of lowering their prices several major airlines went the other direction—they started charging for the extra inches in legroom that was once considered standard. At a time when the airlines are making record profits, a minimum seat standard is necessary to protect consumer health, safety and comfort and I will continue to fight for this in Congress.

With market forces pushing the airlines to pack their coach cabins ever tighter, and no meaningful pushback from government regulators (who rarely fly coach), there’s no relief in sight for cramped flyers.

Reader Reality Check

Is it time to regulate seat size?

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After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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