February 28th – Sen. Chuck Schumer announced today* that he will tack on an amendment to the FAA’s Reauthorization bill demanding that the FAA set Government minimum seat widths and and the spacing between airline seats. The Senator complains that airlines are “forcing” passengers to sit “like sardines.”
*This is Sen. Schumer’s most recent effort to interject the Federal government into passengers’ gripes with airlines. (One might presume that Sen. Schumer does a lot of flying, hence these gripes are a high priority for him.) Last summer he sought to apply Federal Government power to regulate the size of carry-on bags, see –
https://www.schumer.senate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/schumer-demands-airlines-ground-their-plan-to-reduce-the-size-of-allowable-carry-on-luggage-new-proposal-would-force-air-travelers-to-pay-more-in-fees-or-spend-hundreds-on-new-luggage-proposal-must-be-sent-packing-before-its-too-late.These proposals also look like “fetcher bills,” disingenuous threats by legislators to pass onerous laws, to “fetch” payoffs from those who would be adversely affected, but we assume that Sen. Schumer is above that.
The Senator did not explain how passengers are “forced” to fly in airplanes at all. He may get around to make flying an “individual mandate” but, for now, his bill leaves flying voluntary.
The brutally competitive airline business has incentivized some carriers to offer “no-frills” services to those passengers who prefer to pay only for the amenities they want, so they are not required to pay for amenities they don’t need. These include passengers who are willing (or prefer) to bring their own lunch (or would rather sleep through airline dinner), and families traveling with children who don’t need double-wide seats.
At the other end of the creature comfort spectrum, full-service carriers offer passengers several additional levels of amenities, including chef-prepared meals, wine and liquor, airport lounges and, yes, more expansive seating. American Airlines, for one, will soon roll out a “segmented”cabin configuration, enabling passengers to choose (and pay for) only the category of comforts they want, and still enjoy the full schedule to many more destinations than the discount carriers offer them.
Senator Schumer, however, argues that offering passengers a menu of cabin comfort choices “exemplifies the problem” on the ground that, “It’s just plain unfair that a person gets charged for extra inches that were once standard.” He did not comprehend the greater fairness in allowing passengers the option of not having to pay for the previous “standard” stuff they didn’t want anyway. Nor did he notice that such notions of fairness did not prevail when the Government added “airport” taxes and “homeland security charges” to airplane tickets – and began charging “user fees” for admission to the national parks – all services that were “standard,” once upon a time.
Sen. Schumer’s one-size for all – presumably his size – deprives everybody else of the ability to choose to buy what they want to buy, and not have to pay for what they don’t want.
His bill won’t punish the airlines as he seems think. It may increase their costs – but they’ll readily recoup that and more because they would no longer need to compete to offer cost-conscious passengers the lowest cost transportation . . . Then, they can then “force” every passenger (who volunteers to board the plane) to pay up the First Class fare (at least Business Class).
The Senator’s misguided Uni-ASS bill is anti-consumer, anti-choice, anti-competitive and a all-too-obvious example of the legislative mentality that has spawned generations of silly, picayune, and overblown Government intrusions on individual choice and free markets.
It should not get off the ground.
To explain this to Senator Schumer: