PhotoCongress gets blamed for everything, and now you can add cramped airline seats to the list. The Senate voted 54 to 42 yesterday to nix a moratorium on any further reductions of seat sizes and the distance between rows.

The measure was proposed by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who argued that despite record airline profits, the amount of legroom and seat width onboard airplanes has significantly shrunk, making air travel uncomfortable for many passengers.

“When talking to travelers, the number one compliant I hear is shrinking legroom and cramped seats – unfortunately that’s a message most Republicans in Congress chose to ignore," Schumer said. "Airlines have been cramming consumers into airplanes like sardines and instead of lowering their prices several major airlines went the other direction – they started charging for the extra inches in legroom that was once considered standard."

Schumer said a minimum seat standard is "necessary to protect consumer health, safety and comfort and I will continue to fight for this in Congress.”

Safety issue

In the House, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) said adequate seating is a vital safety issue.

"Planes need to be capable of rapid evacuation in case of emergency, yet appropriate testing has not been done on all of today’s smaller seats," Cohen said. "In addition, doctors have warned that deep vein thrombosis can afflict passengers who don’t move their legs during longer flights.  The time to examine the safety implications of smaller seats is now, not after some future tragedy."

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