It’s official: The U.S. government will soon regulate the distance between airline seats.
President Donald Trump on Friday signed legislation passed by Congress that extends FAA policy for another five years. The FAA Reauthorization Bill includes several provisions that will affect air travelers.
One provision that’s attracted the most attention is the “Seat Egress in Air Travel (SEAT) Act,” which directs the FAA to set standards for the size of airline seats. The agency has one year to come up with minimum requirements for seat width and for the space between seats.
While many have praised the bill as an attempt to keep airlines from further shrinking seat sizes, there’s no guarantee that's how it will play out.
The FAA will have to come up with regulations on minimum permissible seat sizes on commercial flights. But it’s unclear what rules the agency might ultimately adopt. It is possible that the FAA’s rules could ultimately end up codifying the tightest seating arrangements already offered on U.S. airlines.
Elsewhere, the FAA bill is also notable for what is not included.
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Lawmakers abandoned a plan backed by airlines to privatize the nation's air-traffic-control system. And congressional negotiators dropped a proposal to crack down on "unreasonable" airline fees, a decision that frustrated airline consumer-rights groups.
The FAA legislation also includes other stipulations. It bars carriers from involuntarily removing passengers who’ve already boarded, a rule with echoes of the passenger-dragging incident on United in April 2017.
The legislation also instructs airlines to create better communication protocols for informing customers about flight delays.
Other details in the legislation: The Department of Transportation would be instructed to set rules for service and emotional-support animals on planes including "reasonable measures to ensure pets are not claimed as service animals." Live animals would be prohibited from being transported in overhead compartments.
Also, passengers would be barred from making voice calls in flight. Currently, no U.S. airline allows that, but the bill would preclude any from doing so.
“The many reforms in this law will help strengthen American leadership in aviation, create jobs, and improve safety and service for passengers," Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., said in a statement after the legislation was signed into law.
"Because of this bill, our economy and passengers will benefit as airport construction projects will move forward, aviation manufacturing gets a boost, and passengers will gain new legal protections during the experience of air travel," added Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.
Contributing: The Associated Press
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