When the FAA Reauthoriation Act of 2018 became law on Oct. 5, fliers rejoiced — or at least breathed a sigh of relief. Here are some reasons why:
Families: Passengers traveling with small children will be allowed to check strollers on all airlines. Pregnant women may catch a break, too. The FAA can now require airlines to let them board planes first.
Animals: Congress has directed the FAA to regulate the currently disparate airline rules for service and emotional support animals on planes — including “reasonable measures” to ensure that no pet be passed off as a service animal.
In a nod to the death of a French bulldog puppy, there will be no more animals suffocating in overhead bins.
Passenger experience: A different social media-meets-airlines horror show is behind another change: The law bars airlines from removing passengers once they have boarded the plane, even if the flight is overbooked. If you’re on the plane, you fly.
E-cigarettes and talking on a cellphone in the air are now prohibited by law, codifying current practices. And when a computer outage causes widespread delays and cancellations, the affected airline must note on its website whether it will provide hotel rooms, meals or other assistance to stranded customers.
Seats: The law requires the FAA to set a minimum airline seat size. No telling how that will get look — the FAA has a year to decide — and it probably doesn’t mean that budget airlines will soon feel spacious. But seat size likely won’t shrink more than it already has. The FAA’s main role is to promote the safety of civil aviation. How does seat size play into that? Passengers and crew must be able to evacuate a plane efficiently in an emergency.
What’s not changing? Those steep fees charged for baggage and ticket changes. Congress originally wanted airlines to justify the fees, but the airline lobby, apparently, wouldn’t let that fly.
Send your questions or tips to Travel Editor Kerri Westenberg at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow her on Twitter: @kerriwestenberg.