Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Seat Act

From Yahoo:
"‘SEAT Act’: Congress set to finally push back against shrinking airline seats"

As most people who’ve flown in an airplane have probably noticed, cabin seats have been shrinking over the past few decades. Since the 1970s, the average economy seat pitch—the distance between the seats—has shrunk from 35 inches to 31 inches, further pressurizing cabins and passengers’ tempers.  This has allowed airlines to squeeze more seats in, or to make more room for larger seats they can sell at a premium. Today, travelers need to purchase premium economy seats for the same amount of legroom they used to get with the old economy. And it’s getting worse: In May American Airlines (AAL) said it would be shaving two inches of legroom in economy class, going from 31 to 29. Public blowback led the airline to partially reverse its decision and only cut one inch from most rows. But passengers’ knees, legs, and elbows are on track to get a reprieve thanks to the dogged efforts of one member of Congress, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN). Cohen is finally looking at a win in his third year waging war against shrinking seats, having steered a version of his Safe Egress in Air Travel (SEAT) Act into the FAA reauthorization bill as an amendment, after failing numerous times. (The FAA’s budget and mandate must be authorized regularly.) The amendment would ask the FAA to study evacuations and issue regulations for minimum safe-seat sizes. The bill is on the House’s agenda for a vote this week.  While many people see comfort as the main problem of cramped seats, Cohen sees a public health and safety disaster waiting to happen. With more cramped and smaller seats—and increasingly large Americans—evacuations may not go as smoothly. “I don’t want to see a day when there’s a plane crash and the [NTSB] ascertains that the plane couldn’t be evacuated in the proper time and people lost their lives from smoke inhalation of fire,” Cohen told Yahoo Finance. “Often it’s a tragedy that gets Congress to act. Safety and health are issues, and that’s the way we’ve framed it to get support.” While every new aircraft model is tested for evacuation by the FAA, Cohen says the evacuations have not been tested with today’s smaller seats. The legislation would direct the FAA to use the results of the study to “issue regulations that establish minimum dimensions for passenger seats…necessary for the safety and health of passengers.”  Though comfort is a concern, Cohen has been careful to focus on safety and less on “legislating comfort,” something that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who has thrown his support behind the measure in the Senate, has been accused of recently“This should be a fact-based matter, not an attempt to legislate seat comfort,” former American Airlines president Bob Crandall told Yahoo Finance. “I have no problem with requiring new tests, since 28-inch pitch strikes me as potentially dangerous—unless it has already been tested.”  Cohen’s public-safety slant was enough to mobilize senators like Schumer, Ed Markey (D-MA), and others to push a version of his amendment into the Senate’s reauthorization bill. It was also enough to get support from across the aisle. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) co-sponsored a standalone version of the SEAT Act earlier in 2017. “We must ensure standards are in place to provide safe air travel for passengers,” he said in June. “Cutting down legroom to add more seats to the already crowded planes is simply dangerous.”  Cohen says the airline industry’s friendship with members of Congress and members on the Subcommittee on Aviation has kept his fight protracted. “[Industry groups] are politically savvy enough to be helpful in campaigns and therefore have political leverage,” Cohen said. “So people have been reticent to oppose industry groups that have PACs. So that’s made it difficult.”  In the past, Airline industry groups like Airlines for America have opposed Cohen’s measures to regulate seating in the past, noting that customers can “vote with their wallet” and choose something else if they don’t want to fly. But one glance at the average seat pitch shows that market forces may not be enough. “There’s a limited amount of airlines and not much competition,” says Cohen. “There are lots of people without a choice. Often they have to do it as a necessity for someone’s funeral or to get a job. It’s a big expense.” In a statement reacting to the FAA Reauthorization bill, Airlines for America did not reject Cohen’s amendment, and an A4A spokesperson told Yahoo Finance “we continue to believe the government’s role in seat sizes for all forms of transportation.”  In the wake of airline scandals such as United’s forcible ejection of a paying customer from a plane, Cohen thinks the industry may not have the social capital to fight.  Multiple airlines, including Delta (DAL), Southwest (LUV), and American (AAL), told Cohen’s office they would not lobby against it. United (UAL), star of recent public relations disasters, was the only one of the “big four” absent from this list. A spokesperson for the airline did not comment on the legislation. “The industry, I think, doesn’t want to have themselves look like a sore thumb again after the doctor was taken off the United plane and other highly publicized instances of consumer issues,” said Cohen.  In the wake of airline scandals such as United’s forcible ejection of a paying customer from a plane, Cohen thinks the industry may not have the social capital to fight.  Multiple airlines, including Delta (DAL), Southwest (LUV), and American (AAL), told Cohen’s office they would not lobby against it. United (UAL), star of recent public relations disasters, was the only one of the “big four” absent from this list. A spokesperson for the airline did not comment on the legislation. “The industry, I think, doesn’t want to have themselves look like a sore thumb again after the doctor was taken off the United plane and other highly publicized instances of consumer issues,” said Cohen.


^ The airlines have been allowed to do whatever that like to passengers for far too long. Not only have the comforts been taken away from us (especially those that were once free) but even basic things like a seat. I have flown countless times and know what it's like to fly on an airline that doesn't care about the safety or comfort of its passengers and try my best to not fly on them as well as telling others about my experiences with that airline. While the government can't do much on bringing back the comforts they can do so in this case since it really is about safety. Of course the airlines are going to protest and fight this tooth and nail, but hopefully the government will prevail - especially with ordinary people (us passengers) start standing up for ourselves regarding the continual treatment as cattle. I have flown on airlines where they have given you a good service, treated you like a person and kept you safe. I know it can be done. The question now is why won't all the airlines treat us like passengers and not cattle? ^


https://finance.yahoo.com/news/seat-act-congress-finally-set-push-back-shrinking-airline-seats-194843416.html

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