Congress Speaks to Aviation.
There are a couple of interesting items in the just arrived Federal Aviation Agency’s Reauthorization Bill. This is a legislative formality that expresses the will of Congress for the various federal departments and agencies. Essentially, it’s Congress telling the administration what policies they should pursue.
There’s a lot crammed into these bills. For instance, this one continues the ban on the use of cel phones in flight and it sets up a task force to review the increasing issue of sexual misconduct during flights.
It also requires the airlines to promptly return fees when they haven’t been able to deliver on the service you paid for. Let’s say you booked on line and paid $25 for an aisle seat toward the front of the plane. But when you get to the airport and check in, you find you’re in a middle seat in the back of the plane. This rule says the airline has to give you your money back promptly. (I haven’t seen the actual bill, but I expect it will stipulate the refund has to be actual money … not in vouchers to use for a future flight.
And under the heading of It’s-About-Damn-Time, the bill directs the FAA to set a minimum standard for pitch … which is airline-speak for the amount of legroom they give us. Time was, not that long ago, when such a minimum did exist, but it was eliminated. You know: getting rid of intrusive government regulation, and all that.
Finally—and it’s just possible I’ve saved the best for last—this bill creates an Aviation Consumer Advocate, someone who, with a staff of investigators, would keep track of a whole variety of issues and demand compliance from the airlines on behalf of the passengers.
And under the heading of Why-Are-We-Not-Surprised?, the Trump Administration’s Department of Transportation formally opposed the creation of the Aviation Consumer Advocate on the usual grounds of too-much-government-regulation … only to be firmly overruled by the Republican Congress. And how about that!