Air travel is about to get a lot better thanks to a surprisingly bipartisan bill passed by the Senate.
Bigger seats, faster security lines, and no more getting kicked off overbooked flights.
[new_image position="standard" id="null"]Photo by Bob Riha, Jr./Virgin America via Getty Images[/new_image]
In the midst of tearing our national dialogue in half during the confirmation hearing of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, members of the U.S. Senate quietly came together to do something really admirable that will affect the lives of millions of airline passengers in a meaningful way.
After a nearly unanimous 93-6 vote, it is now illegal for commercial airlines to kick passengers off of a flight that has been overbooked by the airline.
"I think we can all agree that once you've boarded a plane, you shouldn't be kicked off until you arrive at your destination," said Sen. John Thune (R-SD) after the vote.
That’s the big headline coming from the vote, but Senators actually passed a number of sweeping reforms:
- Airlines must now ensure seats are big enough for most passengers, along with passing a $90 million budget to support aviation safety. The FAA has one year to come up with a baseline standard for how big seats must be and how much space must be between them.
- Airports will be getting more K-9 dogs to help speed up the process of going through airport security.
"What we are seeing is that our airports move much more rapidly when these canines are present," said Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA).
One of the few “no” votes came from Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) who had pushed for a provision to scale back the number of fees airlines are increasingly charging customers for basic services like checking a bag. Lobbyists were able to block his provision.
"Congress has missed a historic, once in a generation opportunity to stop gargantuan airlines from gouging Americans with exorbitant fees every time they fly," Markey said.
It may not be the ultimate change in the airport experience some people were hoping for and everyone deserves. But it is significant progress in one of the most frustrating parts of travel. And that fact that nearly every member of the U.S. Senate came together to support it is something worth acknowledging and maybe even celebrating.