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FAA Reauthorization Act benefits passengers

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posted December 1, 2018

After months of negotiations, the United States Senate and House of Representatives came to an agreement on their versions of the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2018, H.R. 4 and S. 1405 respectively.

The House and Senate successfully reconciled differences between these versions, and the negotiated version of the FAA Reauthorization, H.R. 302, passed the House and the Senate, and was signed into law by President Trump on Oct. 5. It contains robust provisions that will improve aviation safety and air travel.

NTA members and their clients are set to benefit from the air travel provisions and safety improvements contained in this legislation. A poor air travel experience at the outset of a trip can negatively impact that trip and future business. While it is impossible to improve every single aspect of air travel, the FAA Reauthorization takes a positive step.

There are a few important provisions that travel professionals should be aware of, including requirements that will increase aviation safety, increase passenger comfort and ensure the consumer is fully aware of their rights should certain air service disruptions occur.

The bill extends rest and duty requirements for flight attendants from 8 hours to 10 hours, which may not be reduced under any circumstances. This provision was included to combat flight attendant fatigue, which has become an issue under current regulations, and to ensure flight attendants are rested to perform their critical tasks. The bill also contains a provision that directs the FAA to review aircraft cabin evacuation procedures to ensure every passenger can evacuate an aircraft safely within the time frame currently required.

Passengers frequently complain about the size of seats on airplanes, as airlines have made seats smaller to accommodate more passengers. Not only are there comfort issues related to reducing seat size, but there are legitimate health concerns as well. The bill directs the FAA to set minimum leg room, width and length requirements for passenger seats on commercial flights.

The bill also prohibits cell phone calls and the use of e-cigarettes on commercial aircraft.

Being stuck in an airport due to weather, computer issues or other unforeseen circumstance can be frustrating for travelers. The FAA Reauthorization Act requires airlines to post, via a link on their website, exactly what will or will not be offered to passengers in the event of a disruption in air service.

To further increase transparency, the bill also requires air carriers to develop a one-page document, accessible on their websites, outlining numerous passenger rights, including compensation offered in the event of a flight delay, flight cancellation, lost bag and other circumstances.

Flying can be stressful, but these provisions, among others, will help improve the experience of flying. The needs of passengers will continue to evolve, and our hope is that Congress continues to adjust and revise regulations and policies accordingly.

Signal Group is a Washington, D.C., lobbying firm retained by NTA to advise members about travel-related issues and legislation.

Top photo by Flickr/Anne Worner: