President Obama is expected to sign a long-term funding bill for the FAA in the coming weeks. The first since 2007, the bill will cost taxpayers $63 billion and will cover the industry until 2015. Fortunately, the heavy cost may be of some benefit to the millions who travel the friendly skies every year.
The first improvement we may benefit from is the appointment of an Advisory Committee for Aviation Consumer Protections. This group would advise officials on customer service improvements and monitor changes.
Also there will be mandatory timeframes for follow-up on customer complaints combined with new regulation for how the complaints are handled. A study currently underway will increase the possibility of the airlines reimbursing travelers for delayed or lost baggage.
Another item on the bill would offer discounts to military passengers and their families. If you travel with a carseat or child safety seat, the airline will be required to post the maximum dimensions prior to a flight on their website. It will also be decided shortly, if travelers with smaller musical instruments can avoid checking them and take them aboard as a carry-on.
Cell phone users will be happy to know that the new bill requires the airline to begin a study that reveals whether usage actually has an impact on airline communication and decides if cell phone use will be permitted during flights. Of course the new bill reasserts that no smoking is allowed on any flights.
Customers who do have complaints can file them with the new DOT hotline, a dedicated line right to the department from the airline.
All and all it sounds like the new bill orders that many things be studied and investigated rather than calling for immediate change. The good news is that it does cover some legitimate territory. Hopefully the friendly skies are about to become a lot more friendly.