Congress Considering Giving FAA Broader Authority Over Passenger Travel
House and Senate lawmakers have released a compromise FAA funding plan that would give the aviation agency broader authority over passenger air travel. The 1,200-page bill emerged after weeks of negotiations. Congress is set to vote on the measure this week.
The proposed bill would give the FAA more authority to establish minimum airline seat sizes, which has been a bone of contention between passengers and airlines for years. The room between rows has shrunk from the once common 34 or 35 inches to less than 30 inches on some planes. Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida said, “Relief could soon be on the way for weary airline passengers facing smaller and smaller seats.”
The bill also blocks the involuntary bumping of passengers who have already boarded, requires large airports to provide nursing rooms for new mothers, and allows the FAA to investigate the size and number of airplane lavatories. Requirements that airlines more explicitly state their policies for handling delayed flights and for accommodating disabled passengers are also included in the proposal. Airlines must also refund passengers for services they paid for but did not receive.
The proposal put forth establishes new standards for allowing service animals to travel with their owners. It would also make it unlawful for any person to place a live animal in an overhead storage compartment. Under the proposal, flight attendants would get a minimum of 10 hours of rest between their work shifts and civil penalties for interfering with cabin or flight crew members would be increased.
There is a Sept. 30 deadline for Congress to pass a funding measure to keep FAA programs running. If the Senate does not take up the bill this week, both chambers will need to pass a short-term extension. The commercial aviation industry currently employs nearly 10 million people and contributes $1.5 trillion to the US economy annually. US airlines carry nearly 3.2 million people a day.