Senate Shoots Down Amendment To Protect Airline Passengers From Shrinking Seats and Legroom

220px-economy_seatWe have been discussing the rising outcry about passengers at the continually shrinking legroom and comfort on airplanes, including storing passengers in what was previously luggage space. Those complaints led to a federal amendment seeking to establish minimum standards for passenger comfort. The airline lobby put on a full-court press to stop the measure and it failed 42-54. Notably, no one actually spoke against the proposal before it was voted down.

The amendment by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., would have blocked airlines from further reducing the “size, width, padding, and pitch” of seats, passengers’ legroom and the width of aisles. It also would have required the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to set standards for the minimum amount of space airlines must provide passengers for their “safety, health and comfort.” Airlines would further have had to post the size of their seats on their websites so that consumers could take the information into consideration when buying tickets. That last requirement would seem quite minimal even if you are opposed to added regulations for the airlines. Disclosure rules tend to advance the market system in giving consumers needed information to make a knowledgable choice.

All but three Democrats in favor and all but one Republican against.

In recent years, airlines have on average shaved off roughly two more inches to 16.5 inches while the average pitch — the space between a point on one seat and the same on the seat in front of it — has gone from 35 inches to about 31 inches.

By making economy seats incredibly uncomfortable, airlines now sell back the legroom that they took away at premium prices.

33 thoughts on “Senate Shoots Down Amendment To Protect Airline Passengers From Shrinking Seats and Legroom”

  1. Economic markets work very much like the NFL.
    The markets function well:

    -When the two sides are pretty evenly matched
    -When they both have the same information
    -When the referees play fair
    -When the ball is kept toward the center of the field
    -When the rules are designed to keep the game fair

    Unfortunately the corporate team in America has bought an paid for the refs, they outweigh the other team by about 10:1, the rules are continually skewed in their favor (by the courts, especially SCOTUS), and they conspire among themselves to make sure the other team never has a chance.

    The airlines conspire tacitly, sometimes explicitly, to make sure that no airline undermines or undercuts another airline’s effort to screw the passenger. In an actual free market, there would be competition and the minute one airline started charging bag fees, another would advertise that they don’t charge bag fees and customers would flock to them. Of course, we know they don’t do that–if one airline starts charging a new fee, the others’ response is “damn, why didn’t we think of that?”

    The only good market is a fair market, and the only fair market is a well-regulated one. Unregulated markets stay fair for about 10 minutes, and as soon as the power shifts (almost always to the corporation), they take whatever advantage they can. They can’t really help it, they are, after all, directed to maximize profits and market share. Knowing this, we should treat them like the amoral organizational sociopaths they are and regulate the hell out of them.

  2. I agree with Darren. Unless they create a situation where the plane cannot be evacuated safely, then it’s not the government’s job to make air travel more comfortable.

    If the airlines won’t publish their leg room and seat dimensions, then I see a niche for a great new website where customers can measure and post it themselves.

    As for those who believe that you can “live better through government”, that has backfired everywhere it’s been tried. Socialism is a nihilistic existence, where you can’t improve your circumstances or feed your family better no matter what you do. Communist Cuba gives everyone $20 a month, regardless of their job, and takes everything else to pay for “free” stuff like healthcare. The houses are all crammed with people because no one is allowed to buy or sell or build houses anymore, and they’re all falling down because who can remodel on $20/month? Every citizen of Cuba is a slave held captive by their government. Venezuela sits on a sea of oil, but it went down the socialist Plus, socialist and communist countries are the worst polluters, because they’ve taken away individual rights. When the good of the collective matters more than the individual, then the government decides what is good. Ultra nanny states like Sweden have backed away from socialism because they ran out of money. The UK is struggling to pay for its own nanny policies. In order to get council housing, you spend years chasing ever increasing requirements for points.

    No one makes the argument that we should abandon the poor to starve in the hedgerows. With all the billions we spend on benefits programs, we certainly don’t want that to happen here.

  3. @ Jay S
    1, April 9, 2016 at 9:48 am

    “BTW, can anyone list any country on this planet, where an utterly laissez-faire government has led to universal or even widespread prosperity?”

    If you aren’t already familiar with it, you may want to check out The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism (Clarity Press, 2013) by Paul Craig Roberts. Here’s a brief review:

    “This very readable book by a distinguished economist, Wall Street Journall editor, and Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury is a major challenge both to economic theory and to media explanations of the ongoing 21st century economic crisis.

    “The one percent have pulled off an economic and political revolution. By offshoring manufacturing and professional service jobs, US corporations destroyed the growth of consumer income, the basis of the US economy, leaving the bulk of the population mired in debt.

    “Deregulation was used to concentrate income and wealth in fewer hands and financial firms in corporations ‘too big to fail,’ removing financial corporations from market discipline and forcing taxpayers in the US and Europe to cover bankster losses. (My emphasis)

    “Environmental destruction has accelerated as economists refuse to count the exhaustion of nature’s resources as a cost and as corporations impose the cost of their activities on the environment and on third parties who do not share in the profits.

    “This is the book to read for those who want to understand the mistakes that are bringing the West to its knees.”

    1. Ken, the ruling oligarchs, as you call them, the 1%s have always stolen the wealth of their respective nation-states and they use socialism and even communistic policies like central banking, income taxes and public education to do this but they also use government contracting and bureaucratic jobs to control the means of production, as Marx called it. It’s all about controlling as much Commerce as possible. The less competition, the greater economic power and controls they are able to gain. Thinking that you and I can stop them politically is naive since they control the game from they top down.

      There have been many times in history when there was greater levels of of free market activity and there are is even more evidence today that the smaller government is, the more prosperous the majority. One of the really good books on this is called the Voluntary City edited by the Independence Institute, a compilation of many economists. There are a couple of on going studies focusing on property rights. The evidence strongly suggests that the more a society protects the property rights of their Citizens the greater prosperity there is for the majority. With 230+/- countries around the world, we have a unique opportunity because of the internet revolution to study our world like never before.

      The oligarchs cannot stop our world any longer from becoming more and more free market but they are not going to go down easily. What they are preparing for the USA is going to change our world and the transformations, as we have experienced over the last 8 years is going to be a bitter pill for many. Just today, One of the European Bank Economist wrong the their US recession index has just gone from amber to red. This is of course no surprise to the Austrian economists. We are the largest debtor nation in world history and it is coming back to haunt us. Pretty simple math if you remove military defense spending from the GDP numbers.

  4. Midwest Airlines had first-class seat width (24″ !!!) and pitch, with fares maybe a bit (but not a lot) over other airlines’ coach prices. When I first started flying with them, they actually served tasty meals with real metal flatware and linen napkins. Had a free “champagne brunch” back then, that was wonderful.

    But evidently the overwhelming majority of flyers want the absolute lowest fare, down to the penny, no matter what. Also, Midwest Airlines didn’t hedge their avfuel prices the way (say) Southwest does.

    So now everyone gets to be a sardine. I would imagine that airlines could make money by shrinking the seats to the point where only short, skinny people can fit, and ignoring everybody else. Might as well anesthetize the customers and stack them into the cargo hold.

    Should government rules prevent passenger space from going to zero?

  5. Midwest was a very good airline. JetBlue is pretty good but not Midwest. But, were you aware, one of Midwest’s early flights crashed? It was known as Midwest Express @ the time and crashed departing its home airport MKE. I’m w/ you on driving under 1k miles.

  6. I have clearly become a minority in Turleyland. I have always felt that the role of government (and farmers) was to keep the foxes from cleaning out the henhouse. But I guess most here feel that the hens should just negotiate with the foxes, and go somewhere else if they don’t want to get eaten.

    As for air travel, I suppose I have voted with my feet – I haven’t flown since 2009. Anything up to 1000 miles, I drive. Anything over, I don’t go. The last decent airline was Midwest.

    BTW, can anyone list any country on this planet, where an utterly laissez-faire government has led to universal or even widespread prosperity? Or is that not a desirable condition? Perhaps we should just be darwinian, and let the unprosperous, or unwell, or unlucky just die off. You know, “reduce the surplus population” as Dickens so well put it.

  7. Meanswhile hud to regulate living out of you rv…..

    At a minimum they could require disclosure of room. As commentre above points out pulmonary embolism etc. Which is expensive to his pool of “mandated” insured….likely more than a ten grand deductible.

    My concern too is the added “weight”….per the 36 reduced to 31” adds six rows to a fifty row plane. We are talking tons. Plus their luggage. And sometimes already planes have to dump fuel to make it in some circumstances. What next dump cargo? Then who?

    So it would seem fuel is the limfac with more weight. So that would decide the sardine routes….longer the flight maybe longer the legroom (cuz need more petro)….then again i don’t want to be on a sardine flight diverted and or delayed landing and run out of gas! Didn’t that recently happen?

  8. Not a difficult concept to grasp. Actually, it’s rather simple. Try to hang.

    Airlines, via their planes, transport passengers. In case of an emergency, said passengers need to be capable of moving from their seats and exiting the plane in an efficient, easy, safe and expedient manner. That’s a given. Seats which are too small, situated too close to other seats, including isles which are far too narrow to accommodate an efficient, easy, safe and expedient opportunity to exit the plane constitute a public safety issue. Period. Stop drawing comparisons to other institutions and other businesses. The unique challenges, restrictions and dangers, present in aircraft, packed with passengers and flying through the skies, make the design and configuration of the interior of these flying sardine tins of paramount interest to the government. Arguing about allowing the free market to sort out the safety requirements necessary in this type of transport makes absolutely no sense, whatsoever. Save your, I’m Going To Vote With My Pocketbook, excuses. They don’t apply here. There are times when the government must step up to the plate and protect the public. This qualifies as one of them.

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