Vail Daily column: Making air travel more family friendly
Between growing security lines, shrinking seat sizes and paying extra for everything from carry-ons to window seats, there’s plenty to grumble about in modern air travel. However, for many Colorado families flying with young children adds an additional level of complexity, making for an especially stressful and often expensive experience. That’s why last month, we sponsored an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization bill to make the friendly skies more amenable for traveling families. This bill reauthorizes the FAA through September 2017 and has passed the Senate.
The Lasting Improvement to Family Travel Act makes important changes that will make air travel a smoother experience for families by ensuring parents are allowed to sit next to their kids, preventing parents from being separated from their kids during security screenings and allowing pregnant women to pre-board their flights.
There is currently no guarantee that you will actually be able to sit next to your child on the plane even if you book your ticket far in advance. One family told us that they were almost forced to sit apart from their 6 and 9-year-old children for a 17-hour flight. Parents may have the option of paying up to $25 or more to select each seat — not only unfair, it can be an insurmountable sum for some families. Parents shouldn’t have to pay extra to sit with their kids on a flight. Separating them is not safe, disrupts the boarding process and often leaves parents at the mercy of other passengers. Passengers who must then decide whether to trade seats despite the fact that they may have already paid additional fees for seats themselves. The LIFT Act ensures that airlines have policies that allow young children to select seats next to their parents on a flight without paying an extra seat fee or waiting until they get on board.
Our bill also clarifies that TSA cannot separate a child from their parent or guardian during the security screening process. Parents have repeatedly told us they have been separated from their children during screening causing unnecessary anxiety. Separating young kids from their parents during the screening process can be traumatic, and it doesn’t need to happen.
Finally, the LIFT Act reduces unnecessary stress placed on pregnant women by ensuring airlines enact policies to allow pregnant women to pre-board their flights and give them enough time to be seated.
In light of the recent attacks in Europe, we also included a measure in the FAA reauthorization to enhance U.S. airport security, particularly in non-secure soft target areas at airports like check-in and baggage claim areas. Denver International Airport is working on plans to revamp and improve the airport’s security operations, and this measure would allow the airport to use existing federal grants for these projects. The amendment also updates federal security programs to provide active shooter training for law enforcement and increase the presence of federal agents with bomb-sniffing dogs in non-secure areas in airports.
More Americans are flying every year, and passenger plane travel is expected to double by 2035. In 2015 alone, more than 54 million passengers traveled through Denver International Airport. As more and more Colorado families continue to take off into the blue, it’s important that we enact commonsense measures that make traveling easier and safer for everyone. We hope that these proposals will help enhance security, reduce unnecessary stress and expense and provide parents with a little more peace of mind.
Michael Bennet is the senior senator from Colorado.