The U.S. House of Representatives hasn’t done much of anything useful this year (aside from that whole thing about letting people use more asbestos, of course) but they could make up for lost time if one new bill actually becomes law.
Buried in the 2,000-page FAA funding bill is a provision that could regulate not only seat size but the amount of legroom on future flights, CNBC reports. The bill would give the FAA one year to establish minimum pitch (that’s leg room), width, and length of airplane seats to ensure they are safe for passengers.
So what gives Congress the right to weigh in on what is ostensibly a business and design issue? While flying with your knees pressed against your chin is uncomfortable, there’s a safety issue at play, too: In the case of an emergency, less legroom might make it more difficult to evacuate. Current FAA rules require airlines to evacuate in 90 seconds or less.
Back in June, investigators at the Department of Transportation, which oversees the FAA, said they wanted to look into whether today’s modern, crowded aircraft—where airlines cram in as many seats as possible in the hopes of making a buck—still meet federal evacuation standards.
The legislation, which funds the FAA for the next five years, passed 398-23 in the House and now goes to the Senate. If Congress actually passes this law, perhaps it can look at the airline’s ever-shrinking bathrooms next.