The Foreign Service Journal, November 2022

AFSA NEWS 72 NOVEMBER 2022 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL New Airline Guidance on Family Seating Good news for families with young children: In early July, the Department of Transportation’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protec- tion (OACP) issued a notice urging U.S. airlines to ensure that children are seated next to an accompanying adult, at no additional charge, on all flights. The notice states: “Air- lines should do everything that they can to ensure the ability of a young child (under age 13) to be seated next to an accompanying adult (over age 13) family member or other accompa- nying adult, without charging fees for adjacent seating.” As airlines have increas- ingly charged for advanced seat assignments and seat selections in recent years, it has become more challeng- ing for families to ensure seats together, even when ticket bookings are placed simultaneously. This is a common prob- lem for Foreign Service families, who regularly take lengthy flights to and from overseas posts and must either pay out of pocket for costly seat upgrades or put themselves at the mercy of other passengers to swap seats. Although the Department of Transportation (DOT) says it receives a low number of complaints from custom- ers about family seating compared to complaints received in other categories, there continue to be reports of instances where young children, including a child as young as 11 months, are not seated next to an accompa- nying adult. DOT states that an adult chosen by the airline to look after the child does not qualify as an accompanying adult. Airlines were given four months from the date of the notice to adjust seating prac- tices. In November, OACP plans to initiate a review of airline actions and con- sumer complaints. If seating policies continue to act as barriers to a child sitting next to an adult family member or other accompanying adult, DOT has pledged to consider additional action. OACP began tracking family seating complaints as a separate complaint category in 2017. In 2019, 2.4 percent of air travel service complaints (230 complaints total) against U.S. airlines concerned family seating. While that figure was lower in 2020 and 2021, fam- ily air travel also plummeted to its lowest level in decades during the pandemic. Family seating issues on U.S. airlines can be reported to DOT at https:// n In an amendment to the National Defense Autho- rization Act for FY23, Representative Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) has proposed the creation of an over- seas rabies vaccine program that may help ease restrictions on bringing dogs into the U.S. from abroad. The program is to be administered by the State Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It applies exclusively to the pets of U.S. government employees assigned overseas in the 113 countries from which the CDC prohibited dog importation last year. The ban, which was introduced in July 2021 and went into full effect in October, is intended to prevent animals at high risk of rabies from entering the country. The CDC said it was introduced after the pandemic surge in dog adoptions led to a spike in falsified health documents from international pet importers. Since then, AFSA has received numerous mes- sages of concern from Foreign Service members with pets and has raised the issue at the highest levels of the State Department and directly with the CDC. In December, revised regulations saw the number of approved ports of entry airports increase to 18 and some allowances extended to dogs reentering the U.S. who meet certain criteria. To learn more, visit n New Rabies Vaccine Program for Dogs NEWS BRIEF Currently, FS families must either pay out of pocket for costly seat upgrades or put themselves at the mercy of other passengers to swap seats.