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Should there be laws to protect Delta flyers? If so, what laws would you want? Is it time for these?

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

what laws should be in place for flyers

First off, I am not advocating anything. Personally I think what is in place mostly works. I say mostly because so many times readers contact me  to ask what their “rights” are in some situation and my most common answer is something like “do you think this is the EU where you have flyer rights”. When my KLM flight was delayed for 3 hours and delivered me home 5+ hours late I had to fight them for YEARS but I got compensation in the end. All Delta gave me for my issue was some SkyMiles (we know how valuable those are).

So that begs the question: is it time for some kind of law or laws to protect flyers? If so, what laws and what could be some of the consequences (there always are). Here is my short list of ideas (not that I support them all):

  • Minimum leg room between seats
  • Minimum seat width
  • Minimum seat pitch / recline
  • What seats airlines can charge more for
  • Overselling flights
  • Checked bag fees including connections
  • Carry-on bags (how many)
  • Your frequent flyer miles

These would be my “hot button” list. Some of them I think could one day make it into a so called “passenger bill of rights” or something like that to protect “us” against the “all powerful” airlines. Some I think have no chance. Let’s look at each one.

Leg room. I would love to see this. Yes, there would be a cost if airlines can pack less seats on a plane but to me, and I think most would agree, paying a little more to know any airline that flies to/from/in the USA will have at least some minimum space for your legs.

Seat width. If anyone gripes that the aircraft is only so wide they did not read the post and just jumped right to the comments section to call me out. I get that a jet is only “so wide” and this limits how wide a seat can be made. However, let’s consider the Delta 777. Right now in coach it is 3-3-3. With new slim line seats and thin armrests it could fit inside the existing circle 3-4-3. You see my point? Heck, maybe some air frames that are now 3-3 would have to go 2-3 instead (now wouldn’t that be amazing?)! Sure prices would go up (ok, maybe a lot) but don’t say it cannot be done – because it can, just at a cost.

Seat recline. Some seats are now all fixed. Some have limited recline. Either way, unless it is for say safety in an exit row, this is a personal issue for me. My back cannot take an ultra upright seat for too long. I would love a minimum here. Maybe you are the same.

What seats they can sell. Airlines are making a fortune segmenting seats, that in Delta’s case are all the same, but calling them “preferred” or C+ seats by offering an “enhanced” experience. I am over this. How about a law that says an airline can only charge more for a seat that is bigger than the rest i.e. wider and more than the minimum? If you are going to charge a premium price it should be a premium seat not just a so called premium experience (that may not be that premium after all).

Overselling flights. Personally I am fine with airlines overselling and what Delta has done with the 10k bump offer will fix their problem forever. However, I could see a law that says they can only oversell by 1 or 2% or something like this to prevent crazy situations? What do you think?

Checked bags fees. This I think could happen as well. I have no issue with bag fees as it is up to us how much we want to fly with and with simple fixes like holding a Delta AMEX card you can get a TON of bags free, but what I don’t like is when airlines charge you twice. Sometimes if you connect to another airline on a ticket you get charged again. I could see no more than 1x someone gets a fee. You?

Carry-on bags. Delta is really good about this. You can take a reasonably sized carry-on as well as a small personal item purse, laptop bag etc. All airlines are not as good as Delta. I can see this Delta standard as a law of minimum. Again, yes, I see some fees going up with this as a law but it may also show a more true cost of one airline to another?

Frequent flyer miles. I don’t think we will ever see any laws on these as they are not the “buzz” right now and past cases have shown the airlines own them not you (no matter what your account seems to say). I am fine with this as I am currently not taxed for my miles and I like it that way. I think if they become “mine” the IRS may see them as an asset and rethink the current rules (ps I am no tax expert so consult your own tax person about all things points).

So there you are. What do you think. Should any or all of these ideas become part of any kind of “passenger bill of rights”? Have I missed any that should really be included? Vote in my poll below or comment on this post! – René


Should any of these be laws to protect airline passengers? Choose all you want to see!

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

René de Lambert is a contributing writer and the founder of RenesPoints. He is an avid Delta and SkyTeam flyer who has held Delta’s top Diamond Medallion status for many years and flown millions of miles.


  1. Interesting post and ideas….. But why would the govt regulate seating and check bags fees? Makes no sense to me. Although I am sure the FAA has some sort of rules.

  2. Require full disclosure about the physical conditions as well as the various add-on charges.

  3. you actually want more regulation? vote with your wallet and feet (like how you avoid CRJ200’s).

    • @Curt – Sure! I would love a law to force the airlines to have a minimum distance between seats and a number of others on this list. As to avoiding CRJ200s, I do often drive to avoid them while other times I put up with them for the closer home airport.

  4. I would totally support regs regarding the first 2 issues, as I feel like we’re getting dangerously close to seats too small for an average adult to sit in (and forget about crossing your legs, or leaving an inside seat without making everyone between you and the aisle leave theIr seats entirely).
    As for recliine, any regs I would support would be the opposite of yours–I’m a firm believer that it is beyond rude to recline your seat if there is anyone behind you. I have not ever, and would not, do so. (Now, this is in regular economy. I could be convinced to be more lenient in C+, perhaps, and I’m not talking about biz or F, of course.)
    I’m okay letting the market control the rest, I suppose. But, if you don’t think miles and points are “yours”, you’ve clearly never been divorced! It’s a pretty common issue in divorxes, transferability be damned.

  5. Would like to see NO Recline on all seats. As it is now, we always purchase F and take the bulkhead seats.

  6. the only ones I would favor, and i’m necessarily a fan of the government regulating anything, but seat width and legroom. I think an argument can be made that anything much smaller could endanger passenger safety/health.

    What I would like to see airlines do is have zero check baggage fees, and charge for each carry-on above one item you can fit under the seat in front of you. I think it’s ridiculous how much stuff people try to cram into the overhead bins. It slows downt the boarding/deboarding process, and often times the bin space is all taken, and then things get delayed while the crew ramp checks the bags that don’t fit.

  7. For many of us (how many, I dunno… but more than zero) the extra legroom is a godsend. Sure, sure, it’s not generally better than the Exit row. But it can be obtained without the lost recline of many exit rows (that you value).

    Is it Delta First or Business? Not even remotely close. Is it better the vast majority of the time? I’d say yes. I’d also admit I choose Exit rows. I also watch to see if the C+ clears in a bad way so I can try to fix that.

    But it’s an “upgrade” of sorts and I like it.

  8. Congress and the federal regulators don’t work for the public. They are there to do the bidding of the airlines, labor unions, and big corporations who donate large sums to their parties and election campaigns. In the US we fail to see this for what it is – legalized corruption.

    But to play the fantasy game for a minute, it woud be nice if (1) there were some legal standards for minimum levels of competition in the airline industry, and (2) airlines were required to honor the promises they make to customers in their ff programs and run these programs in accordance with the concept of good faith and fair dealing. One could write a book.

  9. dotti cahill Reply

    overhead space or really limit all to ONE BAG per person up there!!!!and change fees!!!!!

  10. We wouldn’t need any of this if the Government didn’t approve so many mergers, thus removing any significant competition from the aviation market in the USA.

  11. All airlines, except SWA, created the current boarding mess when they started charging to check a bag. Since most flyers are trying to get a bag on board before all the bins are full, they crowd the gate area then practically stampede the gate as soon as possible. Even DM’s line up to board as soon as possible for the same reason when they have a carry on.( I am DM & AMEX holder, so I know there are ways to avoid the checked bag charge, but most are not.)
    I’ve seen the latest 5 roped off lanes experiment in Atlanta. Delta that isn’t working either! Eliminating the checked bag charge for all would result in fewer carry on bags & somewhat smooth the now chaotic process.

  12. Leg room and seat width must be dealt with as our population continues to grow larger. But I cannot get past the comment that reclining your seat is rude. No it is not, I paid for that seat and I can recline it as I wish. What is rude is the airlines greed cramming in so many seats that reclining a seat might annoy someone.

  13. The primary thrust of government oversight of airlines must be safety. Involving gov in more regulations diludes safety first efforts. I can take care of the other “problems” myself by paying more for a better seat or airline. We do not need more government regulations. What’s next, government regulations on car seats and leg room?

  14. We need EU type laws governing compensation for non-weather related delays.

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