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Airline passengers need more space, Chuck Schumer says

During a news conference today, Feb. 28, 2016

During a news conference today, Feb. 28, 2016 in Manhattan, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer calls for legislation requiring the Federal Aviation Administration to establish seat-size standards for commercial airlines, which he says now force passengers to sit on planes like sardines. Photo Credit: John Roca

Airline passengers are feeling the big squeeze and Sen. Charles Schumer has had enough.

“Consumers are tired of being packed into airplanes like sardines,” said Schumer, who wants the Federal Aviation Authority Reauthorization bill in Congress to stipulate minimum seat size and leg room standards. “A standard for seat size and legroom should be a top priority. . . . and I will work hard to make that case,” Schumer said.

Seat “pitch” (aka leg room) was routinely 35 inches in the 1970s but has shrunk to 31 inches, said Schumer. And seat width has narrowed from 18.5 to 17 inches.

“The only thing that hasn’t shrunk in recent years are airline profits,” fueled in part by the practice of carriers charging passengers “extra” for legroom — sometimes at $20 per extra inch on a one-way flight — that was once routinely provided, Schumer said.

The International Air Transport Association “expects the airline industry’s total net profit for 2015 to be $33 billion! And for it to be over $36 billion in 2016,” Schumer noted. The amount of space allotted to passengers should be based on science, passenger health and safety — “not only the maximum number of people that can be crammed,” into a cabin, he said.


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