House Passes FAA Reauthorization Bill, With Provisions to Regulate Seat Size

Apr 27, 2018

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The US House of Representatives approved a new piece of Federal Aviation Administration legislation on Friday, which will protect the passenger experience for travelers on US airlines, as well as keeping air traffic control a government entity for at least the next five years. Such protections as setting the minimum standards for the size of airplane seats, prohibiting voice calls during flights and more.

On Friday, the House voted 393-13 to approve the five-year bill from leaders of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Of the seven highlights of the bill would benefit the passenger experience the most. The bill will now move to the US Senate, which Reuters reports could take the issue up as soon as next month.

The bill would order the FAA to develop regulations on minimum standards for seat size, including the pitch and width of the seats. The minimum dimensions weren’t detailed in the bill. The bill would also prohibit passengers from making voice calls during the flight. Currently, the Federal Communications Commission prohibits cellphone calls during flights, but the workaround currently comes with widespread Wi-Fi coming to aircraft, enabling passengers to make calls without cellular communication — think FaceTime or Skype. Flight crew and law enforcement officers would be exempt from the ban.

Also of note, the bill would ban all airlines from bumping passengers who have boarded full planes, an idea that came in the aftermath of the United Dr. Dao bumping incident in April 2017.

The bill would also force airlines to post prominent messages on their websites explaining how travelers will be affected when their computers systems suffer widespread disruptions. The agency would also have to create a Transportation Department hotline and smartphone app for travelers to report any complaints. Along the same lines, the bill would require airlines to publish one-page summaries of the compensation passengers are entitled to when a flight is diverted. Whether it’s in the form of rebooking options, refunds, meals or lodging.

Finally, the bill would order the installation of a secondary barrier to block access to the cockpit during flights. The requirement would be necessary on new aircraft. Along with these passenger-friendly points, the bill also includes some additional safety measures, including requiring 10 hours of flight attendant rest between shifts.

President Trump unveiled a plan in June to privatize air traffic control. United Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines backed the plan.

The House’s passage of the bill is the next step in the FAA’s reauthorization, which is set to expire September 30. The version that the House passed would run until 2023.

“The bill is critical to our economy, to millions of American who work in aviation, and to hundreds of millions of Americans who still use the system every year,” Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa. and panel chairman said. “It strengthens protections for passengers.”

Featured image by AlxeyPnferov/Getty Images.

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