Congress is aiming to make US airlines quicker to issue refunds and more transparent about their fees.

The House is on the verge of passing legislation to improve consumer protections and flying standards when it comes to buying, boarding and changing flights.

The Senate passed the same measure, a five-year authorization for the Federal Aviation Administration, last week. President Joe Biden is expected to sign the legislation ahead of a May 17 deadline.

Here’s how the reauthorization bill will affect travel:
Automatic refunds
The legislation would allow passengers to receive full, automatic refunds for flights that are significantly delayed or cancelled if the passenger chooses not to take that flight or accept a rebooking, voucher, credit or compensation.

This would apply to domestic flights that arrive three or more hours late and international flights that arrive six or more hours late.
Airline vouchers
The lifespan of a flight voucher today depends on the airline, but typically these forms of coupons expire one to two years after they’re issued. The FAA bill would require airlines to accept vouchers, airline credits and other forms of flight compensation for at least five years.
Customer service
In December 2022, Southwest Airlines’ software systems crashed during a winter storm. Millions of passengers across the nation were stranded in airports during the Christmas holiday and faced excessive wait times from customer service and little communication from the airline.

The reauthorization bill requires airlines provide free, 24/7 access to customer service agents by phone, text message, or live chat, partially as a reaction to Southwest’s holiday fiasco. Lawmakers emphasised that these forms of communication should be “without an excessive wait time, particularly during times of massive disruptions.”
Transparent sees
Seemingly cheap flights can become exponentially more expensive between the ticket purchase and takeoff. The bill would require airlines to clearly show additional fees, such as for checking baggage or changing a reservation, before booking the flight.
Improved accessibility
The legislation would mandate airlines accommodate specific seating requests for passengers with disabilities, such as a seat near the bathroom or one with more legroom. Airlines would also be required to provide information, upon request and on their public website, about reservations for an on-board wheelchair.

The legislation also would create a grant program to incentivize US airports to upgrade their accessibility standards.
Washington flights
Perhaps the most contentious component of the bill is one that allows five additional round-trip flights to operate through Ronald Reagan Washington International, the closest airport to downtown DC.

Opponents of the measure, including United Airlines and lawmakers from Virginia and Maryland, argue that allowing more flights would worsen delays and noise pollution, along with potentially jeopardizing passenger safety.

Proponents of the measure include lawmakers who live in states further from DC and want more convenient and frequent ways to travel home. Delta Airlines, which argued that the airport is underused, is also in favour of the expansion.
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