Americans might be getting larger, but the our commercial airline seats aren’t.
In fact, the amount of leg and seat room we have on flights have progressively been cut over the past few decades in order for airlines to cram more seats onto planes.
And there’s currently no legal barrier to prevent airlines from further shrinking seat width and seat pitch (the amount of space between rows).
Enter US Senator Chuck Schumer.
The Democrat from New York told the Associated Press‘ Michael Balsamo that he will add an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Bill that’s currently under review by congress to set a standard for the size of airline seats.
“One of the most vexing things when you travel on an aeroplane is there’s almost no legroom on your standard flight,” Schumer told Balsamo. “There’s been constant shrinkage by the airlines.”
The amount of space that airlines have cut has been significant over the years.
According to USA Today, the average width of airline seats in 1985 was between 19 to 20 inches. By 2014, the number had shrunken to around 17 to 18 inches.
In addition, seat pitch has be reduced from a range of 31 to 36 inches in 1985 to around 30 to 33 inches in 2014. Some low-cost airlines such as Spirit has taken that number down to just 28 inches.
Earlier this month, the US Patent and Trademark Office published at patent application from Airbus for an adjustable bench seat that could be configured to seat a wide range of passengers. This would allow airlines to offer a more flexible weight-based pricing model as opposed to the current a la carte model.
The FAA, as well as several major airlines, didn’t immediately comment on Schumer’s amendment.