Tag Archives: airplane

Cohen’s bill on plane seat size is grounded

It didn’t take long for U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen’s crusade for larger airplane seats to hit turbulence in Congress, reports Michael Collins.

Taking up the cause of passengers who are tired of squeezing into narrow seats for long flights, the Memphis Democrat filed legislation last Monday that for the first time would require the federal government to establish minimum seat-size standards and a minimum distance between rows of seats on airplanes.

By Thursday, the proposal had been grounded. A House subcommittee rejected the measure on a vote of 26-33 when Cohen offered it as an amendment to a broader aviation bill.

“This was a vote against the safety and health of airline passengers,” a disappointed Cohen said afterward.

But as often happens in Washington, the proposal may have been knocked down, but it’s not yet dead. Cohen said he will continue to pursue the legislation as a stand-alone bill.

Consumer advocacy groups have been pushing for years for more leg room and bigger seats on planes.

Narrower seats and seat pitches — the distance between seats — have allowed airlines to fit more seats on planes, but at the cost of passenger comfort, critics charge.

The average distance between rows of seats has dropped from 35 inches before airline deregulation in the 1970s to about 31 inches today, according to Cohen’s office. The average width of an airline seat has shrunk from 18 inches to about 16½.

Cohen seeks to ease pain in the airline seat

News release from U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen
[WASHINGTON, DC] – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, today announced that he plans to offer his Seat Egress in Air Travel (SEAT) Act (H.R. 4490) as an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization bill.

FAA Reauthorization bill is scheduled to be marked up by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Thursday. The SEAT Act would direct the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to establish minimum seat size standards for the safety and health of airline passengers. Congressman Cohen is a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Aviation.

“Shrinking seats raise safety and health concerns, and it’s time for the FAA to take action,” said Congressman Cohen “The FAA requires that planes be capable of rapid evacuation in case of emergency, yet they haven’t conducted emergency evacuation tests on all of today’s smaller seats. Doctors have also warned that deep vein thrombosis can afflict passengers who can’t move their legs during longer flights. Consumers are tired of being squeezed both physically and fiscally by airlines.”

The average distance between rows of seats has dropped from 35 inches before airline deregulation in the 1970s to about 31 inches today. The average width of an airline seat has also shrunk from 18 inches to about 16 ½. A copy of Congressman Cohen’s remarks from the Congressional Record can be found here.

FedEx gets $20M state tax break under late-breaking bill

FedEx Corp. and Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration are asking lawmakers to cap the company’s aviation-fuel tax liability to the state at $10.5 million a year — about one third of the $32 million it paid last year.

Further from the Commercial Appeal:

Memphis-based FedEx pays on average between 66 and 75 percent of the total $41 million to $48 million a year that the state’s aviation-fuel tax generates, because of its huge fuel purchases in Memphis.

The tax is 4.5 percent per gallon. The revenue flows into a fund created in 1988 that helps pay for airport improvements across the state. The revenue fluctuates from year to year with the price of fuel.

A bill suddenly moving through the Legislature would cap the annual tax liability for any single payer at $21.75 million this year and phase it down to $10.5 million in four years. According to testimony in a committee Tuesday, no other taxpayer is close to that cap, but Southwest Airlines is second at about $6 million per year.

But large and small airports that use revenue from the tax to pay for airport improvements are questioning the tax break — mostly because there’s no plan to replace the lost revenue and partly because it surfaced late last week in the form of an amendment to an innocuous “caption” bill. The Legislature uses caption bills as placeholders for later-filed amendments often only marginally related to the original bill’s stated purpose. In this case, the original House Bill 1147 only required additional information in reports on how aviation-tax revenue is spent and had no reference to a tax break.

The bill with the new amendment won a recommendation for approval Tuesday in the House Transportation Committee, where officials of the state departments of transportation, revenue, and economic and community development advocated for passage with warnings that FedEx could shift more of its flights from Memphis to its similar hubs in Indianapolis and Greensboro, N.C., to avoid the Tennessee tax, costing Tennessee jobs and revenue.

Indiana has no such tax and North Carolina caps its tax at $2.5 million per taxpayer, the bill’s House sponsor, Rep. Mark White, R-Memphis, said.

“Currently we have one payer in our state paying 66 percent of the state’s entire aviation fuel tax, or in fiscal year 2014, $32 million of the entire $48 million,” White told the committee. “FedEx states that it is unsustainable for their company to justify keeping on paying this level of tax when they have capacity at their Indianapolis and Greensboro hubs with little or no aviation fuel tax.”

New American Airlines will continue serving TN cities 5 years under deal with AG

News release from state attorney general’s office:
Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper announced an agreement today in the State’s challenge to the proposed merger of US Airways and American Airlines. The settlement will require the New American Airlines to continue to serve each of Tennessee’s five major airports in Nashville, Memphis, Knoxville, Chattanooga and the Tri-Cities for five years.

Since 2008, several other major airlines have merged including Delta and Northwest, United and Continental and Southwest and Airtran. Each of those mergers has resulted in reductions in seat capacity and in some cases a dramatic reduction of service such as in Memphis following the Delta and Northwest merger. This resulted fewer flying options and higher prices for Tennesseans.

“Today’s agreement should provide Tennesseans more opportunities to buy low-cost airline options,” Attorney General Cooper said. “It also opens the door to increased competition to smaller carriers, benefitting consumers and businesses.”

As part of the agreement, US Airways and American commit to continue to offer service in Tennessee. At issue for Tennesseans was divestiture of airline slots at Reagan National Airport and LaGuardia International Airport. The divestiture of 104 Reagan slots and 34 LaGuardia slots will allow lower-cost carriers such as Jet Blue and Southwest to bid for the slots. Without divestiture, the New American Airlines would have controlled 69 percent of the slots at Reagan.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the States also signed off on a related proposed final judgment that will remain in place for 10 years. That judgment requires the divestiture of flight slots at Reagan National in Washington, DC, LaGuardia in New York City and of gates at Boston, Chicago, Dallas-Love Field and Los Angeles International. The divestitures of flight slots will enable new carriers to enter the Washington and New York markets. Divestitures of gates should enable new carriers to enter the other affected markets.

The States and DOJ filed the action on August 13 this year and a trial was scheduled to begin on November 25. Tennessee was joined by the States of Arizona, the District of Columbia, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

$4 Million Plane Added to State Air Fleet

A $4 million plane has been added to the fleet of aircraft used to fly Gov. Bill Haslam and members of his cabinet around the state, reports WTVF-TV.
The King Air 350, a 2007 twin-engine turboprop purchased back in December, is now the lead plane in the fleet operated by the Tennessee Department of Transportation.
“The governor is always the first priority for this aircraft,” said Lyle Monroe, the state’s chief pilot.
Monroe said the aircraft has lots of advantages over the 1985 model King Air that Tennessee’s governors have flown for years, including more powerful, more efficient engines.
“We can burn the same amount of fuel and get further with this aircraft because of the increased speed,” he said.
Inside the cockpit, it’s got more advanced systems to make the pilots’ jobs easier — including conflict-avoidance systems to help then steer clear of other aircraft.
“If an aircraft encroaches within a certain limit of the airspace, it’ll tell us pull up, turn left, turn right — and it’ll keep telling us to do that until we’ve actually gotten out of the conflict area,” he added.
Inside the cabin, the aircraft provides comfortable seating for nine people, not counting the two-member flight crew.
“It’s not something that we started and did quickly. We’ve been looking at this for several years,” the chief pilot added.