Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer wants to ground a potential plan from the Federal Aviation Administration that would let airliners take off with a plan to shrink passenger seats.

The New York Democrat revealed a little known possibility of the FAA allowing for smaller airplane seats — and warned the public only had until Nov. 1 to weigh in on the issue. Schumer, during a press conference Sunday, encouraged fliers stateside to flood the FAA with comments pushing back against losing any more leg room and seat width.

Every inch airlines cut back, passengers are forced to pack in uncomfortably like “sardines,” Schumer said, adding the FAA could take a proposal from the airlines that would make flying more miserable.

“When talking to travelers on airplanes the number one complaint I get is how cramped the seats are,” Schumer said. “How you can’t fit yourself and anything in them and how your knees bump up.

“If fact, what I do – I take out the brochures and the booklets that the airlines have out of that little seat pocket because it gives me a quarter-inch more room for my knees,” Schumer said. “So cramped seats are a huge problem for travelers and the seats are shrinking.”

Senator Charles Schumer revealing the FAA is quietly seeking public comment shrinking airplane seats until November 1st.
Sen. Chuck Schumer wants the public to fight against the FAA’s plan to shrink plane seats.
Kevin C. Downs

Legroom has dropped from 35 inches before airline deregulation in the 1970s to about 31 inches, and seat width has been cut from 18.5 in the 1990s and 2000s to about 17 inches, according to Schumer’s office.

Schumer noted people with disabilities, and passengers with children or pets will have an even tougher time if seat size decreases.

After the comment period, the FAA could then determine new dimensions depending on the input they receive, Schumer’s office said.

Empty seats in passenger cabin of commercial airplane.
Seats on airplanes have shrunk over the last few decades.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

“Every inch counts when it comes to seats on airplanes,” Schumer said. “The squeezing, the tightening, the cramming of airlines makes people feel more like sardines than like travelers.”

Schumer argued the shrinking seats could be delayed or canceled if the FAA gets “thousands of thousands” of comments from fed-up consumers.  

He believes passenger seats should be based on science, passenger health and safety over any profits. Schumer added the fight against decreasing seat size has been ongoing over numerous years.

“The only thing that hasn’t shrunk of course is airline profits,” he said. “They’re going to be doing very well again. God bless them, but don’t let them take it out on passengers in any way.”



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