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How FAA Reauthorization Act Impacts Travelers

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© Getty Images PHOTO: Passenger watches plane from airport window. (photo courtesy of anyaberkut/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

By Patrick Clarke, TravelPulse

President Donald Trump signed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2018 Friday, awarding about $90 billion to federal aviation programs over the next five years.

The new law is chock-full of requirements that will affect air travelers moving forward.

Some items are even a direct response to recent high-profile incidents such as the infamous United Airlines dragging incident in April 2017. When it comes to overbooked flights now, the new law prohibits airlines from bumping passengers who have already boarded the plane.

The legislation also requires the FAA to set a minimum size for plane seat width and pitch and mandates that airlines allow passengers to check strollers if they are traveling with small children. It also grants the FAA the power to require airlines to let pregnant women board planes first.

What's more, the law prohibits passengers from storing pets in the overhead luggage compartment, using e-cigarettes or using their phone to make voice calls during flight.

While the law doesn't ensure oversight of frustrating change fees—U.S. airlines earned nearly $3 billion from change and cancellation fees last year alone—air travelers will be happy to know that it also requires airlines to refund passengers for "services they paid for but did not receive" and tasks the government with looking into whether it's "unfair or deceptive" any time airlines delay flights due to weather despite other determining factors.

Unruly passengers should also take note as the new law increases the penalties for travelers who interfere with the flight crew.

Looking ahead, the legislation sets rules and regulations regarding drones and supersonic air travel, requiring the FAA to consider allowing supersonic airplanes over the continental U.S. and allowing federal law enforcement to shoot down private drones that are deemed threats.

The FAA Reauthorization Act also establishes a task force to look into sexual harassment in the airline industry amid a growing number of FBI investigations into midflight sexual assaults.

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