House FAA Bill

House FAA Bill Would Regulate Airline Seat Size, Ban Voice Calls - USATODAY

Excerpt from USATODAY

The House approved Federal Aviation Administration legislation Friday chock full of consumer provisions such as setting minimum standards for the size of airline seats, more information during flight disruptions and a ban on voice calls.

The House voted 393-13 to approve the five-year bill from bipartisan leaders of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The bill would:

- Order the FAA within a year to develop regulations on minimum standards for seating, including the distance between rows and the width of seats. The minimums weren't defined in the bill. But consumer groups have protested as the distance between rows --"seat pitch," industry vernacular -- dropped from 35 inches before deregulation to about 31 inches today, and the width narrowed from 18 inches to 16.5 inches.

- Prohibit voice calls during flights. The Federal Communications Commission prohibits cellphone calls during flights. But with the advent of Wi-Fi services such as Skype, the bill would ban any wireless calls, while exempting the flight crew or law enforcement officers.

- Ban airlines from bumping passengers who have boarded full planes. A passenger was dragged off a full United Airlines flight a year ago to make room for crew members.

- Force airlines, when their computer systems suffer widespread disruptions, to post prominent messages on their websites explaining how travelers will be affected.

- Require airlines to publish one-page summaries of compensation when a flight is diverted, such as rebooking options, refunds, meals and lodging.

- Create a Transportation Department hotline and smartphone app for travelers to report complaints.

- Order the installation of secondary barriers on new airliners starting in one year, to block access to the cockpit during flights. Cockpit doors were hardened after the terror attacks Sept. 11, 2001, but pilots and security experts have urged folding metal gates be added for when pilots occasionally leave the flight deck.

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