New rules could end biggest flying gripe
WE CAN endure the flight delays and questionable in-flight meals, but if there's one thing we, the air-travelling public, can no longer stand, it's the ever-shrinking aeroplane seat.
As airlines cram more and more seats onto planes, the size of seats have accordingly grown smaller - and legroom has disappeared before our eyes.
Airlines have been carrying on like this with impunity. Thankfully, justice might be on the way.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which regulates civil aviation in the United States, could have to set a minimum requirement for aircraft seat width and legroom as part of a five-year extension of aviation rules.
The minimum requirements would mean seats and leg room couldn't get any smaller - and they could set the trend for aviation globally.
The regulations were part of a FAA funding plan being considered by US Congress this week.
Last year the FAA rejected the idea of setting minimum standards for seat width and legroom but it appears Congress is pushing the aviation authority to go ahead with it, AP reported.
And taking action on the phenomenon of "ever-shrinking seats" was something both chambers of Congress agreed on, Democratic senator Bill Nelson said.
"Relief could soon be on the way for weary airline passengers facing smaller and smaller seats," he said, reported AP.
Those weren't the only changes set out in the proposed bill, which Congress had until Sunday to agree on or extend.
It would also stop airlines from kicking passengers off overbooked flights, a practice made globally infamous with the case of David Dao, a doctor who was dramatically dragged from a United Airlines plane in April 2017.
It would ban pets from being stowed in the overhead compartment, which appeared to be in response to another infamous case from this year involving the in-flight death of a family's beloved french bulldog.
The FAA would make airlines give refunds to passengers for services not received, including if their in-flight entertainment system didn't work.
And among other provisions, it would also see pregnant passengers were boarded early.
While that would all be welcome news to flyers, the bill overlooked a key issue that was also a big gripe for passengers.
The version of the bill announced on the weekend removed a provision toregulate what airlines could charge in fees, such as for baggage and seating reservations.
This year, US airlines were expected to fetch about $6.5 billion in such fees by the end of the year, the Washington Post reported.
The provision that was removed would have allowed the US Department of Transport to decide whether extra charges were "unreasonable" or out of line.
"Airline travellers are being gouged by exorbitant fees, but the airlines will stop at nothing to protect this billion-dollar profit centre," Democratic senator Edward J Markey said.
Aviation expert Brent D Bowen from Arizona's Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University said "the biggest complaint of the flying public right now is always about fees".
"People don't realise what they're getting into when they go into the purchase process," he said, according to the Post.
His comments came as Italy's competition watchdog said it was investigating Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair's controversial new baggage fee structure.
From November Ryanair will stop letting passengers take small suitcases on board for free, and will charge passengers for carrying on bags 10kg and over.
But Antitrust, Italy's competition authority, said this week hand luggage was "an essential element of transport" so the cost should be included in the price of the ticket.
It said Ryanair's new rules could be considered unfair commercial practice as it distorted final price of the ticket and didn't allow a true comparison with other airlines' prices.
Consumer associations had complained to Antitrust about Ryanair's change to baggage fees and it was now investigating the airline, AFP reported.