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Seat act

Statistics show the average American male is a full inch taller and about 25 pounds heavier than back in the 1960s.

But, as the population has gotten bigger, the average seat size on US airlines has been shrinking.

Now, there's a bipartisan push to set minimums on seat sizes so you don't have to feel like a sardine the next time you fly. The SEAT act of 2017.

A bipartisan group of federal lawmakers is pushing for the new rule, which would keep airlines from making seats any smaller or airline rows any closer together.

Those behind the idea say there was a time when airline seats were about 18 inches wide. Now, they say, most are down to 16 ½.  And the space between rows, according to the same statement, was once 35 inches and is now about 31. 

“I can hardly fit to begin with,” said Mike Powell, who sometimes pays for an upgrade to sit more comfortably.

It’s no fun Powell, who stands 6’ 4” tall and weighs about 280 pounds.

Powell admits he takes no pride in occasionally being one of “those guys” on the plane.

“I just kind of brace up against the chair, so if they want to put it back there not able to,” he says.

It’s no fun either for Reene Zenker, and she’s petite.

“But the people next to me or not so small,” says Zenker, “They hang over. On you. It's uncomfortable,” she says.

Similar ideas have been grounded in the past, so this time lawmakers aren't just making this a comfort issue. The confined spaces, they say, compromise safety. Too tight to evacuate quickly in an emergency

Passenger Gordon Leavitt says that’s what he was thinking when he flew to Tampa from Canada recently.

“I was in the middle seat coming down here, and wouldn't have been able to get out real fast,” said Leavitt.

Lawmakers point to a potential health hazard, too. Especially long flights, raising the risk of blood clot conditions like deep vein thrombosis.

“Well, you can die,” said passenger Donna Starkey. “A blood clot could go to your brain or your heart or anywhere. So, yeah so I would be in favor of them not making them smaller.”

Critics warn if the bill passes, the SEAT act of 2017, could hurt low cost carriers by forcing them to reduce capacity and that could possibly send prices skyward.

But from where a guy Mike Powell’s size sits, “Good luck with that,” said Powell. “It certainly seems like the airlines are trying to squeeze us as much as possible. Literally and figuratively.”

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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