Lawmakers may put a halt to shrinking airline seats

The ever-shrinking airline seat may soon be a thing of the past. 

U.S. House and Senate leaders say they will direct the Federal Aviation Administration to set minimum dimensions for passenger seats as part of a new spending bill. The bill also prohibits airlines from removing passengers against their will from overbooked flights.

Airline seats have been shrinking for years, raising questions about consumer safety in the event of an emergency. Other consumer advocates have raised concerns about the health impact of tight seats, such as the potential for blood clots. 

Seat width has shrunk from about 18.5 inches to 17 inches on most major airlines, while seat pitch -- the distance between your seat and the one in front of you -- has decreased from an average of 35 inches to 31 inches, according to the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA). On some airlines, the pitch is as narrow as 28 inches. 

Lawmakers scuttled a plan to prohibit airlines from charging "unreasonable" fees for changing or canceling tickets. Lawmakers were crafting a compromise bill over the weekend in an effort to meet a Sept. 30 deadline.

Airlines opposed efforts to crack down on changes fees, which are as high as $200 per ticket. Last year, U.S. carriers collected nearly $2.9 billion in change fees.

The Senate supported limiting those fees. But Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts said Saturday the provision was left out after negotiations with House lawmakers.