Cicilline, Merkley Introduce Legislation to Ban the Sale of Middle Seats During Pandemic

Jul 23, 2020

WASHINGTONU.S. Congressman David N. Cicilline (RI-01) introduced the Maintaining Important Distance During Lengthy Epidemics (MIDDLE) Act along with Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) to prohibit airlines from filling adjacent seats in passenger aircraft for the duration of the pandemic and would require that passengers and crewmembers wear masks when boarding.

“As air travel begins to recover in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical that airlines take the necessary steps to ensure the safety and well-being of travelers,” Cicilline said. “However, there is currently no federal mandate that requires airlines to put space between passengers on flights, making it difficult to social distance. Airlines are required to have seatbelts and flotation devices in the event of an emergency. We are currently in the middle of a national health emergency, and certain steps need to be taken. By halting the sale of middle seats during this public health crisis, airlines can do their part in preventing the spread of this disease.”

“Filling planes to capacity, forcing passengers to sit shoulder to shoulder for hours at a time, is incredibly irresponsible during a pandemic,” said Merkley. “I’ve seen with my own eyes that airlines are willing to put their profit margins ahead of the health of their customers. If taxpayers are going to bail out airlines because they provide an essential service, it is not too much to expect the airlines not to make the pandemic worse.”

Click here to view the text of the legislation.