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Opinion

Legislation could be a breakthrough for air travelers

Economy class seating is shown on a new

Economy class seating is shown on a new United Airlines Boeing 787-9 at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle on Jan. 26, 2016. Photo Credit: AP / Ted S. Warren

After years of removing shoes and laptops, of having to get to airports early but landing late, of being charged more and larger fees and receiving less and worse service, is life actually about to get better for frustrated fliers?

Maybe. If Congress approves a bill just hashed out by bipartisan Senate and House negotiators. The centerpiece, for distressed travelers, involves those shrinking seats. Yes, it’s not just you, seats are getting smaller, and it’s getting much too cozy with seatmates. Legroom has shrunk from 34 or 35 inches to less than 30 on some planes. The bill would require the Federal Aviation Administration to set minimum requirements for width and legroom.

More good stuff: Passengers could no longer be involuntarily bumped from planes they already have boarded, like the 69-year-old man dragged off a United Airlines flight in Chicago last year. The FAA also would have to investigate the size and number of bathrooms on planes, and take steps to make sure people aren’t pretending pets are service animals to get them in the cabin. And the agency would have to study the potential impact of flight noise on human health, an issue for residents under flight paths in our region.

But the airlines did get language removed that would have required “reasonable” and “proportional” fees. That’s unfortunate.

Passage seems likely. And if President Donald Trump signs the bill, the FAA must implement it appropriately — by setting bigger seat standards, for example, and modifying flight patterns if it finds jet noise is harmful. It’s time the FAA makes the skies a little more friendly for the people who fly them. 

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