Finally, a worthwhile accomplishment in Congress!
Thank you to all who answered our Call To Action last week and contacted your congress members, urging them to vote pro-passenger on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization bill. They heard you!
The House overwhelmingly passed the FAA bill that renews the agency’s funding for another five years.
This bill has been years in the making, as Congress has not enacted a long-term funding measure since 2012, and the FAA is running on its fifth extension
The roll call was 393 to 13. The bill included a nod to FlyersRights.org by requiring the FAA to set minimum size standards for aircraft seating.
You’re probably asking, who are the 13 lawmakers who voted against this bill? And, what will the new minimum seat standards be?
If the bill passes the Senate and gets signed into law, the FAA will have one year to study seat standards and determine a minimum seat size. The sardine-ification of economy class seems to have reached a tipping point.
Last July, the FAA, following FlyersRights.org’s petition to the agency to regulate seat sizes, was forced to respond to a federal court order requiring it to prove that “The Incredible Shrinking Airline Seat” does not affect safety. The court determined the FAA had “failed to provide a plausible evidentiary basis” for denying our request for rules governing minimum seat sizes.
Other consumer-friendly protections in the bill include a ban on involuntarily bumping passengers once they have boarded. (We might call this the “Dr. Dao Debacle” rule.) In addition, an airline must proactively offer to pay passengers who are denied boarding against their wishes. No more waiting for passengers to request compensation.
The bill would require greater transparency in a number of ways:
Airlines would have to provide a one-page summary of passenger rights when flights are diverted. It would contain information on travelers’ rebookings, refunds, meals and lodging options. During widespread disruptions, airlines would be required to publish prominently on their websites clear statements of whether affected travelers would be provided with hotel accommodations, ground transportation and meal vouchers, as well as travel on other airlines.
The bill also has a provision requiring greater disclosure by airlines when flights are disrupted due to computer problems.
The current Federal Communications Commission ban on voice calls would be extended to video services such as Skype and FaceTime.
However, it’s not all roses. One of FlyersRights.org’s pivotal regulations is in danger of being watered down – the fee transparency rule, which prevents airlines from advertising fares without including taxes and other charges. Regulators around the world have supported this policy to give consumers a clearer, more immediate grasp of the total cost of a ticket.
The bill in its current form, however, would allow base fares to be advertised separately from taxes and charges. Then somehow the total cost would have to be “clearly and separately” disclosed via a link or pop-up window on the website or mobile phone app. Yeah. Right.
Now, all eyes are on the Senate.
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