Three RI Members of Congress use Comfy Seats to get Headlines

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Whitehouse, Langevin, Cicilline Call for “More Reasonably Sized” Airplane Seats

U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Congressman Jim Langevin, and Congressman David Cicilline joined Rhode Island Airport Corporation CEO Iftikhar Ahmad at T.F. Green Airport on Monday, to call on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to “make air travel safer and more comfortable for passengers by setting a reasonable minimum size and pitch for airplane seats.”

Whitehouse had advocated for a provision signed into law last fall that directed the FAA to propose a minimum seat width and minimum distance between rows of seats.  The FAA must meet the requirement by October of this year, according to the law.  The agency has indicated that it will take initial steps to fulfill the requirement by later this year.

“Airlines have increasingly turned to cramming additional seats on board as a way to grow profits at the expense of the comfort and even the safety of passengers,” said Whitehouse, who is also a sponsor of legislation reintroduced earlier this month to create an Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights.  “Congress has directed the FAA to make flying a better experience for consumers by setting a reasonable minimum for the size and pitch of airplane seats.  We look forward to the FAA following through on this requirement.”

Cicilline said following the press conference he believed “There’s no expectation that [airlines] will charge more, but people have an expectation that when they buy a ticket to know that they’re going to get from point A to point B and that it be done safely,” he said.

Average seat pitch in coach has narrowed from about 35 inches to 31 inches in recent years, according to the travel website SeatGuru.  Seat pitch is as low as 28 inches on some carriers.  Average seat width has shrunk from 18 inches to 17 inches or less.”

Not to impugn the motives of these three elected representatives of State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, but


the press conference was held at the T.F. Green Airport in the middle of the vacation season;

the announcement that they plan to call on the FAA “to make air travel safer and more comfortable”, language which is so ambiguous that the Legislative Counsel would find it to vague to be enforceable



(especially of clothes or furnishings) providing physical ease and relaxation.



as large as is needed or wanted]


the Senator stated that he was an advocate for a bill, which passed, directed the FAA to propose a minimum seat width and minimum distance between rows of seats., making this call redundant at best.

Given these faults, might one suppose the goal of their announcement was to be featured in a headline. That worked; their names were all mentioned in the headline!!!

There are technical flaws in this approach; not the least of which is that the FAA has affirmatively found all existing airlines seats to be “safe” by tests which have been in place. The word “safer” is also incapable of establishing a regulatory standard—clearly, a first class seat meets the goal of the Senator and Representatives. YEA, everyone gets the wider, better leg room, more comfortable expansive seats under their standard.

The delineation between the existing coach and the above luxury accommodations is a matter of degree. Where does safer start and too fancy stop?

If the FAA mandates, on the basis of “more comfortable/safer” criteria,  the seat width to 18” and seat pitch to 35”, WHAT WOULD HAPPEN? The airlines (contrary to Rep. Cicilline qualitative economics analysis that the airlines cannot charge more) would have to recover the lost capacity/revenue and WOULD HAVE TO CHARGE MORE!!!  Thus, the Whitehouse/Langevin/Cicilline Comfy Seat/Higher Fare Act.

There are a whole host of technical problems with the safer seat mandate:

New Seat Technology May Obviate Need For FAA Minimum Aircraft Seat Dimension Standards

Today’s Aircraft Seating Densities Are “SAFE”, But Are These Inflight Confrontations Symptoms Of Needed Revision Of Standards By FAA?


Take An FAA Approved Seat, Rep. Cohen (see the orange middle seat in the cover, bottom row)

Senator Schumer’s Seat Bill May Not Fit His Desired Outcome—Size Or Time

HR 302 Section 577 Does NOT Mandate More Seat Room

Scholars Prove First Class Seats Are THE Reason For Air Rage… Really? [MAYBE WIDER SEATS would create more conflict?]

Bigger Dummies Needed In FAA Aircraft Certification Safety Tests?


Great PR, not such a Good Bill


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2 Comments on "Three RI Members of Congress use Comfy Seats to get Headlines"

  1. Dear Mr. Murdock, great story and interesting. How is it congress is spending more time on this matter than on the Federal Communications Commission’s non-functional Universal Licensing System (“ULS”) on-line filing software?? Is it not important for the FAA to have the RF transmitting from a tower? Not all Determinations are shared with the FCC which requires additional work. Where may one go to a caring, dependent and reliable congressman to have a similar matter resolved? Is the comfort of a plane more important than a function of a Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition system to operate pipelines, utilities and voice communications for public safety officials? Congress uses gas and power; however, many take helicopters or private flights into Lorton, Virginia via Fort Belvior. Yet the FCC’s software is functional at times and also operates, at times, without any processor involvement. Please share. I would bother Sharpe; however, you are the author on this story. If you are local to Sharpe, please send him my best. Thank you for the story. I may use it as precedent at some point.

    I welcome comment when your schedule permits.

  2. I recall seeing that Airbus commissioned a study on seat width. Much of the conversation is on seat pitch but this study concentrated on width, one of the parameters discussed in this article. I’m citing from memory (always suspect) but, as I recall, they used self-reported ability to sleep as an operational variable. The results indicated that a difference of as little as one inch in width made a significant difference (~50% if I recall correctly) in respondent’s ability to sleep.

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