Podcast 061: Breaking down the passenger wins in FAA reauthorization

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Welcome to the Episode 061 of the #PaxEx podcast, which tracks how the airline passenger experience is evolving in a mobile, social, vocal world.

In this episode, which is available on Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts, co-hosts Max Flight and Mary Kirby tackle a variety of issues that could have a very real impact on #PaxEx for economy class passengers and passengers with reduced mobility.

First, President Trump has signed FAA reauthorization legislation that, in addition to extending the FAA for another five years, instructs the agency to regulate aircraft seat size, among other provisions. Mary and Max consider whether the new law will result in a more comfortable situation for coach passengers, or if the FAA will be compelled to set standards based on already-approved layouts (which are tight). For instance, will the FAA require seat width to be 18 inches – as hoped by consumer advocacy group Flyers Rights – when the Boeing 737 workhorse accommodates 17-inch wide seats per the limitation of the tube?

Next, the FAA reauthorization bill also instructs the secretary of transportation to, among other things, create an Airline Passengers with Disabilities Bill of Rights and, importantly, to study in-cabin wheelchair restraint systems, in coordination with disability advocates, airlines and aircraft manufacturers. Mary highlights some of the pushback she’s hearing from industry on the notion of using wheelchair restraints on board, which would allow disabled passengers to remain in their own mobility devices. Max and Mary also address the ban on inflight voice calls, as well as Congress’ decision not to privatize Air Traffic Control, as part of FAA reauthorization.

Last but not least, blogger and aviation expert CrankyFlier reports that American Airlines is limiting reaccommodation options for travelers when things go wrong. Max wonders if, in creating a negative #PaxEx for non-elite, domestic coach travelers, American is hurting its opportunity to turn non-elites into loyal passengers, and Mary wonders whether decisions such as these will prompt further regulation of the industry.

Mary also addresses the current troubling climate in the US and why she believes the aviation industry as a whole has an opportunity to spearhead positive change by ensuring women and people of color have a seat at the table, including importantly at the decision-making level. The airline passenger experience has been overwhelmingly colored by the white male perspective. And that has got to change.

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