7 Ways Congress Might Make Your Next Airline Flight a Little Less Terrible

Full FAA reauthorization is the next legislation before the Senate

The Senate is debating a reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration this week, and on the line might be efforts to make air travel better for passengers. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Senate is getting ready to send to President Donald Trump a bipartisan reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration that might make the commercial flying experience just a little less awful.

“Relief could soon be on the way for weary airline passengers facing smaller and smaller seats,” Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee, said when the deal was announced.

“Democrats and Republicans from both chambers agree that it is time for the administration to take action on ever-shrinking seats, refunds of fees for services airlines fail to deliver and dignified treatment for passengers with disabilities — and especially our disabled veterans,” he said.

The five-year reauthorization bill also includes approximately $1.7 billion in disaster aid after Hurricane Florence, which flew through the House Wednesday, 398-23; it also has a number of consumer protection-related provisions.

Those include:

  • A prohibition on the use of electronic cigarettes aboard aircraft.
  • A provision long sought by Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California to codify a ban on talking on cell phones aboard commercial flights.
  • A requirement for the Government Accountability Office to study the availability of bathrooms on commercial flights, as well as efforts by commercial air carriers to cut down on the number or size of lavatories to increase the number of seats.
  • A requirement that the FAA establish minimum seat dimensions on passenger airlines.
  • A direction to airports with commercial flights to provide access to lactation rooms.
  • A new set of regulations against the practice of involuntary “bumping” of commercial passengers, including a direction to clarify that, “there is not a maximum level of compensation an air carrier or foreign air carrier may pay to a passenger who is involuntarily denied boarding as the result of an oversold flight.”
  • A separate directive for the GAO to study the practice of overselling flights by commercial airlines within the United States.

Jacob Fischler contributed to this report.

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