October 3, 2018

Whitehouse Cheers Passage of FAA Bill Setting Minimum Seat Size for Air Passengers

Senator’s three provisions would help make flying more comfortable, protect aircraft from drones, and save on fuel

Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) welcomed passage of the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2018, which contains his provisions to help improve air passengers’ comfort and safety, reduce airfare, and cut pollution.  One provision would require the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to set minimum seat sizes for passenger aircraft.  Another would make it a criminal offense to interfere with the operation of a manned aircraft using a drone, and bar flying a drone near airports.  A third would require the federal government to examine the potential for boosting aircraft fuel efficiency, helping to lay the groundwork for technologies to reduce both flight costs and greenhouse gas pollution. 

“Every day, millions of Americans take to the skies.  Airlines are doing everything they can to squeeze more out of their customers, and one way they do it is to cram passengers into smaller and smaller seats.  I agree with the cramped Rhode Islanders who say ‘enough is enough,’” said Whitehouse.  “I’m proud my work on this bill will help make passengers more comfortable, make our skies safer, and possibly lead to cheaper and cleaner air travel.”

Whitehouse, along with Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Edward J. Markey (D-MA), included a provision to require the FAA to issue regulations establishing minimum dimensions for passenger seats on aircraft operated by air carriers.  The requirements would include minimums for seat pitch, width, and length.

The bill includes a provision based on Whitehouse’s Drone Operator Safety Act, which would make it a criminal offense to interfere with the operation of a manned aircraft using a drone, and prohibit flying a drone near active runways.  Violators would be subject to a fine, prison time, or both.

The bill also includes Whitehouse’s provision to require the FAA and the National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA) to conduct a review of current and planned research on advanced aircraft technologies, materials, fuels, and designs to increase aircraft fuel efficiency.

This bill’s passage follows a string of legislative successes for Whitehouse during the 115th Congress, including:

  • $30 million for the National Ocean and Coastal Security Fund to support work that helps Americans understand and adapt to forces like sea level rise, severe storms, and other coastal hazards.
  • Bipartisan legislation to spur investment in next-generation carbon capture, utilization, and storage technologies, putting a dollar value on the reducing carbon pollution driving climate change.
  • Whitehouse’s legislation to extend permanently vital foreclosure protection for servicemembers, veterans, and their families.
  • Bipartisan legislation to increase collaboration between private industry, universities, and national laboratories in developing and bringing to market advanced nuclear technologies.
  • Bipartisan legislation reauthorizing the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), making important improvements to the way we treat young people in our criminal justice system.
  • Bipartisan legislation to address the marine debris epidemic affecting America’s oceans, shorelines, and inland waterways, as well as other coasts across the globe.
  • Bipartisan legislation to help behavioral health care providers – like psychologists and psychiatric hospitals – adopt electronic health records.
  • Bipartisan legislation to encourage governments to help tech companies comply with global criminal investigations. 
  • Bipartisan legislation to help encourage growth and job creation in the emerging kelp farming industry.


Press Contact

Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921