While most of the nation’s attention was focused on the Supreme Court nomination this week, Congress quietly agreed to a wide reaching bipartisan bill to reauthorize and fund the Federal Aviation Administration for another five years. Included in the new legislation are some provisions that are intended to protect air travelers nationwide.

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Passengers sit aboard a flight. Congress wants the FAA to regulate the minimum amount of legroom and seat width on airplanes. (Creative Commons)

The Seat Egress in Airline Travel Act, or SEAT act wins the award for best political acronym in the act. This bill, rolled into the larger Reauthorization Act, orders the FAA to come up with regulations on legroom and seat width within the next year. Currently, there are no restrictions on how closely seats can be packed together. However, Congress didn’t suggest what that minimum legroom space should be, so there’s a chance the regulations could just codify the cramped conditions on airplanes.

The bill also makes it illegal for an airline to involuntarily remove a passenger from a plane who has already boarded. This law was in direct response to the 2017 incident, where United airlines forcibly dragged a man off a plane after bumping him off the flight.

In addition, the bill makes it illegal to store a live animal in the overhead bin. This provision was added in response to the death of Kokito, a french bulldog who died after a United flight attendant put his carrier in an overhead bin. Congress is also ordering the FAA to create regulations about the qualifications of service animals and the kinds of animals that can qualify as emotional support pets. This is in order to make sure that passengers are not passing off their pets as trained service animals. That means that we might be seeing fewer emotional support peacocks at the gate the next time we take to the skies.

Featured Image: Jason Pratt/Creative Commons

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