On Friday, October 5, 2018, the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Bill was signed into law.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “What does that have to do with me?” While the signing of an FAA reauthorization may not sound like a big deal, it’s actually huge for passengers, pilots, air traffic controllers, flight attendants, and really the travel industry at large.
The vote on this bill was extended a whopping six times (most recently because of the Kavanaugh hearings) and marks the first time a five-year bill has been put in place for the FAA since the 1980s.
One of the big issues that slowed the bill down was some original language out of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee that called for air traffic control to be removed from the FAA so that it could be privatized. This measure was strongly opposed by pilots who called their elected officials more than 200,000 times to specifically voice their opposition. The signed bill protects air traffic control from privatization for at least the next five years.
But what does the bill mean for you as a passenger? Here are just a few of the changes that will hopefully make your travel experience safer and more comfortable:
- Airlines can no longer bump passengers from flights who are already seated on the plane.
- The bill requires the FAA to set a minimum seat width and a minimum distance between rows of seats.
- Passengers must now be allowed to check strollers when traveling with small children (which is already common practice). Additionally, pregnant passengers must be allowed to board before other passengers, such as during the family boarding period.
- Airlines must now refund fees to passengers for services that the passenger doesn’t receive.
- The bill makes it illegal to put a live animal in an overhead bin. This measure is the result of a flight attendant insisting on an animal carrier being stored overhead rather than under a seat, which resulted in the death of a dog earlier this year.
- The bill instructs the Secretary of Transportation to create an “Airline Passengers with Disabilities Bill of Rights” to help ensure that the rights and dignity of all air travelers are protected.
- The bill also prohibits cell phone calls on planes.
Additionally, the FAA Reauthorization Bill extends the rest period between flights for flight attendants from eight hours to ten, provides greater regulation of drones, and calls for the FAA to reexamine cockpit security measures.
You should begin to notice these changes on your upcoming flights and over the course of the next few months. As you look forward to your hopefully expanded seat width, legally guaranteed leg room, and assurance that no one will chatter away on their phone for the whole flight, remember that we are always available to help with expedited passports and expedited visas. Happy travels!