Update on Families Flying Together

Earlier this month I shared some news about Family Travel Association (FTA) involvement in advocating for legislation to require airlines to keep families together on commercial planes. Well, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has marked up the FAA Reauthorization Bill. And we have both good news and bad news to share.

The good news: Legislators managed to include in the bill an amendment requiring that families with children are notified, before tickets are booked, when they are assigned seats that are not together on a selected flight. The bad news: Legislators were NOT able to include an amendment directing each air carrier to establish a policy to ensure, to the extent practicable, that a family that purchases tickets for a flight with that air carrier is seated together during that flight.

The next step at this point is for the full House to consider the bill, which will allow for additional amendments. According to Ethan Gelber, the FTA’s editorial director (and also my friend), the failure of the Committee to approve the language means it is unlikely to move on the floor of the House should it be proposed there again.

As Gelber wrote in a blog post on the FTA site, “Another attempt could be made to get the language included in the Senate FAA bill, but there’s apparently little certainty about when they will move such legislation.”

Stay tuned.

Congressmen push to make family travel more accessible

Get it together, legislators!

Get it together, legislators!

Every now and again, our elected officials actually do something I can get behind. Case in point: the FAA Reauthorization Bill, which includes a push to make into law new rules that would require airlines to allow families to guarantee seats together on planes.

In other words, the legislation aims to make traveling with children more accessible for everyone.

I don’t just support this because of my involvement with the Family Travel Association (though, I admit, the FTA will be supporting this legislation in a HUGE way). I support the bill because I’ve been separated from my kids on a flight before, and it’s about time we did something to prevent it from happening to other families.

Technically, the bill is H.R. 3334. The formal name for it is the “Families Flying Together Act.” It’s been introduced before. And, much like that first, time, the legislation is being championed by U.S. Representatives Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) and Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.).

H.R. 3334 is expected to be added as an amendment to the FAA Reauthorization Bill, which the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will consider later this month. If all goes well, both 3334 and the bill itself will be voted into law later this year.

There’s a lot of work to do before then, though. First is convincing lawmakers that this is something which warrants attention. Next is inspiring other traveling parents to get behind the effort as well. To this end, Davis and Nadler have been circulating a letter to their colleagues outlining the merits of their addendum to the big bill. Here’s a (lengthy) snip from that letter:

As airlines change policies and increase fees for a variety of basic services, it is becoming more difficult for families with small children to sit together on commercial flights. There are increasing reports of parents being separated from their children when they arrive to board an aircraft. Often the only ‘recourse’ is to rely on another passenger to voluntarily change seats. This inconvenience for everyone involved is complicated by the fact that a passenger might have to vacate a seat for which they [sic] paid a premium in order to allow a parent to sit next to their [sic] child.

This scenario also has the potential of being unsafe and traumatic for the families involved. It is not in a child’s best interest, nor does it serve the other passengers on board, to allow small children to be seated alone and separated from their parents on a flight. It is simply common sense to ensure a small child does not sit unattended, next to strangers, on an airplane.

H.R. 3334, the Families Flying Together Act, would require each air carrier to establish and make publicly available on their [sic] website a policy ensuring that families purchasing tickets are seated together to the greatest extent practicable. Further, it would also require airlines to notify passengers traveling with small children if seats are not available together at the point of purchase. These common-sense reforms would increase transparency for consumers and vastly improve the flying experiences of families with small children.

Flight passengers deserve predictability and transparency, particularly for something as basic as a seating assignment. H.R. 3334 does so in a way that prioritizes the safety and well-being of small children without being overly burdensome for airlines.

The issue at hand is clear. For the first time in a while, we actually might be able to do something about it. Now it’s time to come together and do something about it. If you want to get involved, call your representative and ask him/her to support H.R. 3334. At the very least, share this post with other traveling parents to raise awareness of this golden opportunity to make a change. Thanks in advance for your support.

Pro-potty parity for family travel

Yes! A changing table! In a men's room!

Yes! A changing table! In a men’s room!

You don’t have to be political to support equal access to baby changing stations in public facilities. The reality is that we dads often lack changing tables in men’s rooms, and when we’re away from home (or traveling) with a diaper-wearing child, the oversight can be a real pain in the ass (pun intended).

Adding insult to injury, of course, is this: Moms usually have changing tables in women’s rooms.

I’ve grumbled about this for years, even making a point of photographing changing tables in men’s rooms when I see them, just to document small wins (see accompanying photo; thank you, The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay). Now other people (men and women alike) are doing something about it, in the form of a bill in the California State Legislature known as SB1350, or the “Potty Parity for Parents Act.”

The effort, which has been gaining national attention all summer long, aims to ensure that public facilities for changing babies’ diapers are equally available to both men and women in California.

Specifically the Act would require a baby changing station to be installed in the men’s restroom if one is being installed in the women’s restroom, or requires a diaper changing station to be included in a family restroom that is available to both men and women.

The bill, which targets places such as museums and other publicly funded spots, is being sponsored by Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Huntington Park/Long Beach).

Personally, I’m proud to proclaim I’m pro-potty parity. Though our girls have grown out of diapers, passage of the bill truly would make a difference in the lives of millions of family travelers each year. When I consider the impact something like this could have on a national level, I see an entire nation of happy baby-bottoms. Also, we dads never would have to change our babies’ diapers in the trunks of our SUVs again.

Apparently there’s a public rally in support of this movement on Friday. I won’t be able to attend (it’s in Long Beach, down near L.A.), but rest assured: I’m on board. And if you’re a dad and you travel with diaper-aged kids, you should be too.

Where do you end up changing your child’s diapers when there are no changing tables to be found?

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