Congress is looking to regulate seat sizes in planes.

One helps mothers feed their babies; the other regulates seat sizes

It’s not often that elected officials discuss legislation pertaining to travel and travel regulations, but that’s exactly what has happened in the past few weeks. 

One of the pieces of legislation, colloquially known as the BABES Act, was signed into law by President Obama at the end of 2016. The other, dubbed the SEAT Act, is expected to be proposed by two congressmen later this month. It could be voted into law later this year.

BABES, which stands for Bottles and Breastfeeding Equipment Screening, pertains to nursing mothers and parents of infants still breastfeeding. Under terms of the new law, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers will be required to offer special concessions for parents traveling with breast milk, infant food, and feeding equipment.

Previously, security agents had forced parents to dump breast milk out if it was more than three ounces. Take it from one who experienced this policy firsthand: It was wasteful and insensitive. 

The act was introduced by U.S. Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) and Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH). According to an article on TravelPulse, TSA officers will begin to receive training on how to screen breast milk, formula, and infant feeding equipment within the next three months. 

SEAT, or Seat Egress in Air Travel, still has a way to go before it becomes law. Essentially, this legislation seeks to establish a universal code on seat sizes aboard commercial aircraft, as well as a minimum distance between rows. According to an article on TravelAge West, the current average distance between rows of seats is 31 inches, compared to the 35 inches before airline deregulation in the 1970s. An airline seat’s average width has also dropped, from 18 inches to about 16.5.

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The act was introduced by Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN), a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation, and Congressman Adam Kinzinger (R-IL). Both representatives allege that current configurations in certain seating classes are uncomfortable and unsafe and that cramped quarters heightens the risk of passengers having medical issues at 35,000 feet.

Because the SEAT Act was first announced as a bipartisan amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Bill in 2016, Congress can’t move on it until after September 30, when the current authorization expires. Stay tuned.

Matt Villano is a freelance writer and editor based in Healdsburg, California. In nearly 20 years as a full-time freelancer, he has covered travel for publications including TIME, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Sunset, Backpacker, Entrepreneur, and more. He contributes to the Expedia Viewfinder blog and writes a monthly food column for Islands magazine. Villano also serves on the board of the Family Travel Association and blogs about family travel at Wandering Pod. Learn more about him at