The Federal Aviation Administration’s reauthorization bill does not provide much of a benefit to travelers, and travelers are beginning to catch on.
The bill, which would provide funding to the FAA, was approved by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, but is unlikely to pass in Senate because it privatizes air traffic control. The bill does include some benefit to consumers, such as the requirement for airlines to refund fees for delayed baggage and an expansion of the Transportation Department’s respected Advisory Committee for Aviation Consumer Protection.
The bill presents representatives with two controversial consumer issues: seat size and fare disclosure. A big issue among consumers that has grown more serious this year is what representatives are doing in the interest of travelers; almost nobody feels they are doing enough.
The Seat Egress in Travel (SEAT) Act would have established minimum seat size regulations to protect passengers’ health and safety, had it passed in committee. Rep. Steve Cohen, who proposed the amendment, based his argument on the fact that the measurements for both seat widths and the distance between seats have decreased considerably since airline deregulation ended in the 1970s.
The airline industry passionately opposed the amendment, while consumers supported the amendment with equal passion. Jean Medina, a spokeswoman for Airlines for America, said, “We believe that the government should not regulate, but instead market forces, which reflect consumer decisions, and competition should determine what is offered.”
Meanwhile, Paul Hudson, president of FLyersRights.org, a group that represents air travelers, said, “Current seats are not just uncomfortable but pose safety and health risks.” He plans to push the FAA to implement a ban on seat shrinkage until a standard is set.
On the second issue, fare disclosure, an airline-supported amendment was proposed by Rep. Carlos Curbelo to allow an airline to prominently quote a fare without taxes and other mandatory fees. Called the Transparent Airfares Act, the amendment would reverse the Transportation Department’s full-fare advertising policy, which requires airlines to quote the entire, but break down the taxes and fees less prominently.
Permitting airlines to advertise their fares without taxes and fees, could both give travelers a false impression of ticket prices and result in an additional $1 billion in annual revenue for the domestic airline industry.
A similar measure failed two years ago, and is likely to do the same this year. Senator Robert Menendez has vowed to block amendment because of its catering to a “powerful special interest” to cheat customers.
Amidst all the air travel politicking, consumers are left wondering why Congress seems to continually pass measures that help the airlines to become even more profitable, while the quality of travelers’ experience steadily declines. Perhaps the most upsetting aspect of the travel debate is the fact that representatives continue to enjoy special perks while traveling.
Because this is an election year, voters have some leverage on these issues. Letting your representatives or perspective representatives know how you feel about issues concerning air travel could change the outcome of similar measures in the future. For more information regarding air travel news and updates, [Click Here].
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