Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill will let parents and kids sit together on flights
Flying with small kids in tow is the actual worst. Not only do you have to worry about getting yourself through security and to the gate on time, you have to do that for everyone in the family. Plus you have to keep track of where your liquids are and how many ounces they contain. Then you need to remember who needs to take off their shoes for security and who’s young enough to keep them on. Once that’s finished don’t forget to grab a gate check ticket for the stroller, find everyone a snack and try not to accidentally toss out the boarding passes with the snotty napkins. And when you’re finally on board there’s the not so small task of hoping you can all sit together and keeping your crew calm and quiet until you get to where you’re going.
For those of us who have travel plans coming up that involve flying, Congress did us a huge favor last week. While the issue has been contentious for months, Congress recently reached a compromise regarding the FAA reauthorization bill. Under the bill, the FAA will be funded through September 2017. But what’s more exciting are the three pretty significant perks for travelers written into the bill.
The biggest win comes for parents traveling with kids and tweens. A new rule requires the transportation secretary to establish a policy allowing children under age 13, “to be seated in a seat adjacent to the seat of an accompanying family member over the age of 13” at no additional cost to the family. There are exceptions obviously. “But I have to sit with my daughter,” isn’t a way to get you both first-class tickets when you only paid for one. But it’s great to have a clear policy that will allow parents to supervise their own kids and keep families together on flights without having to worry about being split up or being hit with extra fees in order to sit together.
Losing your suitcase now sucks a little less too. Watching the last piece of luggage come around the baggage carousel and realizing your bag isn’t there is pretty crappy, even if you’re reunited with it later. Under the old rules, luggage fees only had to be refunded if a bag was truly lost. But the newly passed extension feels our pain of lost luggage, and is making airlines pay for our inconvenience, even if we eventually get our bag. The new bill instructs the Department of Transportation to require airlines to promptly and automatically refund “any ancillary fees” paid for checked baggage if it’s delivered more than 12 hours after your domestic flight arrives, or 15 hours for an international flight.
The bill also tries to address what is perhaps the most dreaded part of air travel — the security check – and has suggestions for ways to try and get us all to our gate faster. It has measures for keeping PreCheck screening lines open during high travel time at large airports, increasing the number of overall screening lines when there are crowds and using secure online enrollment as a way for more people to use PreCheck.
Let’s be honest, we’re never going to go skipping through the airport like it’s a field of flowers. Flying is always going to suck, at least a little bit. But knowing we won’t have to wait forever to get through security, that we can sit next to our kids and that if our bags go missing we’ll at least get our baggage fees back? We’ll grab one of those tiny plastic bottles they have on board and cheers to that.