Government Affairs Flyer protection bills face tough path with current makeup of Congress By Robert Silk / April 03, 2017 Share 1 -- Analysts said that a bill that would regulate airplane seat configurations is unlikely to make it through Congress this session. But lawmakers could look more kindly upon a provision in a second flyer-protection bill that would require airlines to state clearly on their websites what they will do for customers when travels are disrupted by a widespread computer system outage.Neither measure, however, is likely to get serious consideration except as part of a broader FAA reauthorization bill, which Congress is supposed to pass before the agency's funding expires on Sept. 30."I think they will be used by members to show that they are thinking of these things, but I don't think they have much chance of being passed as a standalone bill," said Rui Neiva, aviation policy analyst at the Washington-based Eno Center for Transportation think tank.The Seat Egress in Air Travel Act, unveiled in early March, would direct the FAA to establish minimum standards on the width of commercial aircraft seats as well as the distance between rows.The bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee, and by Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R.- Ill.).In the Senate, five Democrats are sponsoring the legislation, including minority leader Chuck Schumer of New York.Airlines have reduced legroom and added seats to some aircraft in recent years, seeking to maximize the earning potential of each plane. The bill's sponsors said that when air passengers are squeezed too tightly it increases the evacuation time of an aircraft and can elevate the risk that a passenger will be afflicted with a blood clotting condition called deep vein thrombosis.Scientific studies, however, have mainly shown that travel in general can cause deep vein thrombosis, whether the conveyance is a plane, train or automobile.The Senate and the House rejected similar measures last year.Also early this month, Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), the lead Democrat on the House Transportation Committee, filed the Know Before You Fly Act. It would require airlines to articulate to passengers whether they will provide hotel accommodations, ground transportation and/or meal vouchers when flights are disrupted due to computer system outages. Airlines would also have to reveal which carriers they will work with to provide alternative transportation.That proposal came after a year in which U.S. airlines were plagued by computer outages. Most notably, Delta last August canceled 2,100 flights over four days due to an outage. And last July, a computer glitch forced Southwest to cancel 2,300 flights over four days.The Larsen-DeFazio bill would also require airlines to include baggage fees in all internet fare quotations for a specific itinerary.On March 2, the DOT suspended the comment period for an Obama administration proposal to require airlines and ticket agents (including travel agents) to disclose baggage fees from the beginning of a fare inquiry.The baggage fee measure, said Neiva, is more likely to get through under a Democratic-controlled Congress than it is in this term, especially considering that President Trump has made rolling back regulations a primary policy goal. But Neiva and Bob Poole, director of transportation policy at the libertarian Reason Foundation think tank, said that the computer outages measure is modest enough in its approach to potentially make it into the FAA reauthorization bill. "In order to get a bill passed, you are probably going to need compromises with people like DeFazio," Poole said.Neiva and Poole both said that the proposal to regulate seat size has little chance of making it through a Republican-led Congress."I can't imagine the political configuration that will get this bill through," Neiva said.