New Air Travel Rules You Need to Know About
If it seems like airport security lines are longer and moving more slowly, you’re not imagining it: New air travel rules are in place. Here’s what you need to know.
More new rules? Why now?
A shoe bomber. Liquid explosives. An underwear bomber. A plot to detonate explosive cargo. These are just four of the threats the American aviation industry has thwarted since September 11, 2001, according to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly. But for every threat, the DHS comes up with new rules to keep us safe, including these which began rolling out in 2017 and are now in full effect at all U.S. airports, according to this press release from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
Safer air travel is now mandated by law
As of January 1, 2020, planes flying in most U.S. controlled airspace must be equipped with something called “Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast” (ADS-B), which uses GPS technology to calculate an airplane’s precise location, speed, and direction and transmits this information twice per second to ADS-B receivers. The new law is expected not only to enhance air travel safety but is also an environmentally-friendly technology. Here are 6 facts that will help you feel less anxious about air travel.
Lots of people have been standing on line (for hours) at the DMV to trade in their existing state driver’s license for a REAL ID or enhanced driver’s license. That’s because new TSA requirements slated to go into effect on October 1, 2020, would seem to require you to have one of these new-fangled forms of identification if you plan to board a plane anywhere in the United States. But as it turns out, you don’t need one of these new forms of ID if you have a passport or any TSA-approved forms of identification. If you do need to renew your license, find out how you can avoid the lines at the DMV.
Stricter rules on emotional support animals
Something else to think about are the new, more restrictive rules on pet travel that have already been imposed by major airlines, including those that apply to emotional support animals (ESA). The rules vary among airlines, so it’s a good idea to check with the specific airline every time you travel because the rules are constantly evolving. That’s partly in response to lobbying groups such as Airlines for America, which is pushing for new rules that would ban ESAs (but not service dogs). All of that said, the Department of Transportation (DOT) has a say in what kinds of rules airlines can make regarding service dogs and emotional support animals. Find out the 10 best airlines for traveling with pets.
Families shouldn’t have to pay extra to sit together
More and more airlines are charging a fee if you want to choose your seat. For some, this is a new annoyance, but for those traveling with children, it can be either very expensive or very traumatic. “I get calls from families all over the nation, telling me about being separated from their children on flights,” says Rainer Jenns, president of the Family Travel Association, which promotes family travel. That includes one from a mother who was separated on a flight from her 4-year-old autistic child.
But here’s something you should know: it’s also illegal since 2016, when Congress enacted the Families Flying Together Act, which required airlines to seat any child under the age of 13 adjacent to a family member, at no additional cost. The trouble is, DOT hasn’t been enforcing the Act. That being said, the DOT told Today it receives “very few” complaints over family seating arrangements. If you find yourself having to make a choice between being separated from your children and paying a “seat selection fee,” contact DOT. Find out the best airlines for economy class fliers.
Marijuana is still not legal on airplanes, but…
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Since marijuana is now legal for recreational use in nearly 25 percent off the United States, albeit not under federal law, it’s understandable there’s been some confusion about whether it’s “cool” to fly with your gummies from, say Michigan to Massachusetts (marijuana is legal for recreation in both states). Recently, however, the TSA made a statement in its What Can I Bring guide (as well as on Instagram) to the effect that if a TSA agent suspects a substance is marijuana, they’re legally required to notify law enforcement. That should make things pretty clear, right? Well, maybe not so much, since in the very same statement (as well as in the very same Instagram post, which begins, “Are we cool? We think we’re cool”), the TSA goes on to say it’s not interested in looking for marijuana. Further, the TSA now expressly permits people to fly with marijuna- and CBD-infused products that contain no more than 0.3 percent THC and are produced legally under federal law. So, what’s okay to bring? Right now, it would appear that any CBD product that contains little to no THC will pass muster. Same with the hemp-based epilepsy medication, Epidiolex. All of that said, that’s not to say the TSA won’t involve law enforcement. It’s just that if they do, you’ll be well within your rights.
Compensation for Canadian travel delays
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As of the end of 2019, the Air Passenger Protection Regulations provides that travelers on flights to, from, and within Canada, are eligible for money damages for being bumped, for delays under certain circumstances, and for damage or loss of baggage. For example, the loss of a bag could mean as much as $2,100 in compensation, while delays of up to six hours caused by being bumped from a flight merit $900 in compensation, and longer delays merit more money, as much as $2,400 for nine hours and beyond. Even if you’re not traveling to or from Canada, it’s important to know your rights in the event you end up on an overbooked flight.
Onboard cell phone calls?
Like it or not, the technology already exists, it’s just a question of when it will be trotted out, according to CNN, which notes that airlines are unlikely to permit in-flight cell-phoning until they feel significant pressure from consumers. Even then, it might still take a bit of FAA- or airline-arm-twisting. Still, the network reports in-flight cell phone calls are likely only a year or two away. Let’s hope passengers follow these cell phone etiquette rules.
“Facing” privacy issues
Facial recognition technology promises to be the latest “convenience” in air travel. Instead of showing your ticket and passport, you’ll just have to show your face to a scanner. This technology is already in use in many airports and is projected to be used a the top 20 major U.S. airports by the end of the year. But there’s something you should consider, and that’s whether in making use of this convenience, you’re giving up civil liberties. Here’s more on why you should be concerned about facial recognition and boarding passes.
Patience and preparedness required
“Federal grant money is allowing many airports to hire more screeners and purchase enhanced equipment,” legal expert Randolph Rice tells Reader’s Digest. As a result, new TSA employees are going to be using new and more sensitive screening tools, leading to longer lines and longer waits for passengers. “This may require more patience,” advises Rice, and according to the TSA, it also requires preparation. “Passenger preparedness can have a significant impact on wait times at security checkpoints nationwide,” the TSA stated in this recent press release, and that means being aware of the following.