New FAA Law Seeks to Make the Flight Experience More Tolerable

FAA lawA new Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) law aims to protect airline passengers from cramped seats and getting bumped from flights, but won’t eliminate airline fees.

Attendees who have experienced a lack of legroom or have been squished in a middle seat on a flight should get a bit of respite from a new FAA law, the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, which provides $90 billion in funding over five years to determine, among other things, how much room passengers need on a flight. The FAA has a year to draw up regulations establishing minimum requirements for seat width and pitch (the space between seats) and the width of aisles. Most believe seats have been shrinking in order to get more seats—and more passengers—on a plane allowing for maximum profits.

The new FAA law will also:

  • Ban airlines from removing a passenger on an overbooked flight who has already been seated. (In response to the April 2017 incident in which a United Airline passenger was dragged off at Chicago’s O’Hare airport prompting Congress to hold hearings on overbooking and bumping passengers.)
  • Instruct airlines to create better communication to inform passengers about flight delays—allowing the Transportation Department to determine if airlines are justifiably blaming delays and cancelled flights on weather.
  • Advertise the entire price of the ticket, including mandatory fees and taxes, keeping a rule that the airlines have fought to repeal ever since it was applied in 2012.
  • Apply refunds to passengers for services they paid for and didn’t receive.
  • Create a task force to study sexual harassment and misconduct among airline employees.
  • Increase the penalties for interfering with flight or cabin crew.
  • Authorize $1.68 billion for relief for Hurricane Florence and other disasters.
  • Require the FAA to set up an “aviation consumer advocate” for consumer complaints.
  • Address security requiring secondary barriers in the cockpit for all new airlines to block passengers from rushing a cockpit door.
  • Prohibit passengers from making cell phone calls in flight.

What the FAA law won’t do? Crack down on “excessive” airline fees. A provision approved by a Senate committee would have limited fees, but according to one of the authors of the provision, Sen. Edward Markey, a democrat from Massachusetts, the fees are a product of consolidation of airlines giving airlines more power.

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“It’s more than $7 billion now that the airlines extract out of consumers per year. It’s a huge profit center and all my provision did was to say the FAA just had to put something in place which determined what is reasonable to cancel, what is reasonable to change your reservation, what is reasonable for a first or second bag…even that was too much for the airline industry and at the 11th hour my provision was taken out,” he said on Washington Post Live.

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