Proposed Federal Aviation Bill Could Mean Big Changes for Passengers (And Why I’m Not Getting My Hopes Up)


Federal Aviation Administration Bill

Federal Aviation Administration Bill

Congress is set to vote on whether The Federal Aviation Administration will be renewed on September 30th. Along with the agency renewal, the bill includes some interesting provisions that could benefit many travelers and enhance your customer service experience. Last week there was a lot of news surrounding the fact that the bill would exclude limitations on how much airlines were allowed to charge for change and cancellation fees. The bill does however include some positive provisions for consumers.

Positive Changes

  • Airlines will no longer have the power to involuntarily bump passengers who have already boarded their scheduled flight. (I.e no more United/Mr. Dao fiascos.)
  • The FAA must decide whether it is unfair or deceptive for airlines to cite weather delays when there are other reasons for delay
  • Reimbursement for services passengers don’t receive (like in flight entertainment not working)
  • Creation of a consumer advocate agency to assist with complaints and enforcement of consumer rights
  • Passengers must be allowed to check strollers when flying with a small child
  • Authority to allow pregnant passengers to board ahead of others
  • Mandatory seat width and pitch requirements
  • Restriction on pets in overhead bins


Congress is definitely taking steps to limit some of the potentially unfair and/or dangerous practices engaged in by airlines by restricting involuntary removal of passengers on flights and placing pets in overhead bins. Another great provision is the establishment of a consumer advocacy body because casual consumer are often unable to get any required compensation owed to them for violations of their rights due to inexperience.

It should be noted that a few of the provisions I mentioned, especially the ones that would get consumers excited are only requirements that the FAA make decisions about them. For example, the requirement for the FAA to determine whether it’s unfair to blame delays entirely on weather when there are other factors at play is only asking them to make a decision as to whether it’s unfair, it’s not a decision in itself. Similarly, asking the FAA to establish minimum space requirements for seats is not necessarily a good thing. It could be superfluous if they set the minimum width requirements at some absurdly low number like 15 inches. If it’s set higher, there’s no ban on airlines charging more or doing away with basic economy or other counter measures. The lobbying groups for the airlines are very powerful and I’m skeptical that the FAA would make sweeping changes.

HTWashington Post

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