Image via The Washington Post.

US Congressman Steve Cohen. Image via The Washington Post.

APEX Insight: Earlier this week, US Congressman Steve Cohen proposed the SEAT Act, a mandatory federal minimum size for airline passenger seats. According to Cohen, the shrinking average seat pitch on commercial aircraft is putting passengers at risk due to the lack of FAA safety testing. APEX CEO Joe Leader weighs in.

In a decision that would have had seismic implications for the airline industry, the US House of Representatives Transportation Committee defeated an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization bill on Thursday. In a 26-33 vote, the Committee rejected the amendment proposed by Congressman Steve Cohen (D-Tennessee) that would have established a minimum seat size and minimum distance between rows of airline seats.

In a written comment on the defeat of his Seat Egress in Air Travel (SEAT) Act, a disappointed Rep. Cohen said “This was a vote against the safety and health of airline passengers. The FAA requires that planes be capable of rapid evacuation in case of emergency, yet they haven’t conducted emergency evacuation tests on all of today’s smaller seats. That’s unacceptable. It’s time for the FAA to take action. I will continue to work with my colleagues to make sure the safety and health of passengers comes before airline profits.”

Rep. Cohen’s SEAT Act was based on data suggesting that the average seat width on US airliners is 16.5 inches. In a heated social media exchange, Rep. Cohen referred to his staff’s source as a Fortune article from September 2015, which other commenters said was incorrect.

“APEX does not support the SEAT bill, but we do support passengers getting more information about their airline seat in advance.” – Joe Leader, APEX CEO

“APEX does not support the SEAT bill, but we do support passengers getting more information about their airline seat in advance,” said Joe Leader, CEO of the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) earlier this week.“When passengers select an airline, they select a passenger experience including their seat. At Spirit Airlines, that means purchasing a seat that does not recline. At Southwest, it means coach seats for all. On major carriers, passengers get as much space for which they are willing to pay. Passengers should be able to make their choice rather than the government making seat choices for them.”

Howard has been passionate about aviation since he was a little kid, and is a pilot who loves to fly gliders and just about anything else with wings. He's a frequent contributor to aviation magazines and blogs.