Congress recently settled on new air traffic legislation regarding the Federal Aviation Administration, which will provide air travelers with some unexpected benefits.
Following a long debate, Congress reached a compromise in mid-July, stating that the agency’s funding will be extended through September 2017. As far as customers go, they will benefit from congress’s mandates that airlines must seat families with children together at no additional charge, expedite the security screening process, and promptly send refunds for baggage charges if luggage has been lost for more than 12 hours.
The customer benefits included in the legislation came as a surprise for many involved in the airline industry, including consumer advocates and airline lobbyists.
“This is an amazing win for consumers,” said Charles Leocha, president of Travelers United. “It is not everything we wanted, but it is far more than consumers would have gotten with a straight extension.”
Lobbyists, while equally surprised with the new legislation, weren’t thrilled with the outcome. “We believe that provisions designed to re-regulate airline pricing and services are bad for airline customers, employees, the communities we serve and our overall U.S. economy,” said Jean Medina, spokeswoman for the airline trade organization Airlines for America.
Airlines are most concerned with the requirement to seat children under the age of 13 in a seat adjacent to a family member over the age of 13. This stipulation will certainly interfere with the billions of dollars made annually through seat reservation fees by most of the largest airlines in the U.S. The Family Travel Association, on the other hand, was pleased with the legislation’s results.
“We’re encouraged that Congress has recognized the challenges families face when traveling and is making it a priority that airlines ensure they sit together when flying,” said Rainer Jenss, founder and president of the Family Travel Association. “After all, families represent one of the largest economic drivers of the travel industry, so ensuring their satisfaction isn’t just the right thing to do. It makes economic sense.”
Despite airlines’ seat selection concerns, the extension bill is likely to affect the Transportation Security Administration most profoundly. The portion of the bill that will affect the security process is thought to be a direct response to the unusually long wait times travelers experienced around the country this summer. To accelerate the security process, the bill calls for TSA changes, including keeping PreCheck lines open during peak and high-volume travel times and offering safe opportunities for customers to enroll in the PreCheck program at kiosks, mobile devices, and diverse platforms.
Government officials, customer advocates, and travelers themselves agree that these changes were necessary to “restore some dignity” to the air travel industry. For more information regarding New Air Legislation Benefits Travelers, [Click Here].
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