Bypass the Seat Mat for SRS/airbag system?

The dealer says that our “Air Bag” warning is on because the Seat Mat needs to be replaced ($518+labor for our 06 Kia Rio).

I think the seat mat tells the system whether someone is sitting in the passenger seat. Would it be possible to just bypass the mat so that the passenger side will just think someone is there and deploy in the event of an accident?

Any other suggestions about how to do this job for less?

Check for a recall. Also report the failure to the NHTSA. I believe in the us there are durability standards for this safety equipment. They may require the manufacturer to upgrade the durability on this equipment. The price may vary if you look for a used seat in a junkyard you may get lucky. You are not allowed by law to circumvent in any way the safety equipment provided as stock equipment. The insurance companies made it so by paying millions of dollars to legislators. You may repair it but it has to return to stock spec. You could ask the area representative for the dealer whether they would consider spliting the cost of the replacement since you are going to submit a complaint to the government about the poor durability of the SAFETY equipment. Just a thought.

I don’t know about your Kia, but in many cars, the seat sensor detects your mass so that the airbag knows how fast/hard to deploy, not just an on/off thing.
The safe option is to replace. The less safe option is to leave it as it is (disabled). The least safe option is to try and bypass it as you suggest.

Can you isolate the seat mat connector? How many wires are involved? This is a “lawyer” issue so it always gets complicated. But it’s your car… The problem arises when you SELL the car and your bypassed switch blows someones six year old out the back window…You are better off living without the bags…