Nursing Mothers to Get Private Rooms in House, Senate Aviation Bills


Airports from Eppley Airfield in Omaha, Neb., to Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta, Ga., will have to provide a lactation room for nursing mothers in each terminal by Oct. 1, 2019, according to a provision in both the House and Senate federal aviation program funding bills.

Nursing mothers win in both the Senate and House bills, which would require large- and medium-hub airports to offer lactation rooms in every terminal. A 2014 survey found that just eight out of 100 surveyed airports offered a private space other than a bathroom with an electrical outlet, table, and chair—each a necessary element for a woman to express breast milk. 

Airport

The nursing mothers provision reflect almost verbatim language found in the Friendly Airports for Mothers Act of 2017 sponsored in the Senate by Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), and in the House by Rep. Steve Knight (R-Calif.).

Medium and large hub airports would have to offer in each passenger terminal a room that:

  • provides a location for an individual to express breast milk that is shielded from view and free from intrusion;
  • has a door that can be locked by the individual;
  • includes a place to sit, a table or other flat surface, and an electrical outlet;
  • is readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, including individuals who use wheelchairs; and
  • is not located in a restroom

“New mothers already dealing with the stress of the airport shouldn’t be relegated to nursing in the last stall of the bathroom,” McCaskill said in a statement when she introduced the 2017 act in May. “This is a commonsense, simple provision that’ll better accommodate moms’ needs by giving them convenient, private accommodations while traveling.”

The Senate bill also includes a provision to give pregnant women advanced boarding options; the House bill had no such provision. The ability to board earlier if you are pregnant could go into effect sooner than the lactation room requirement, if the bill survives conference with the Senate language. After that, it rests in the hands of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. 

By March 30, 2018 (or 180 days from enactment if the bill is ultimately delayed), Chao is tasked with reviewing and possibly revising air carrier policies regarding traveling during pregnancy. She could decide to require air carriers to offer advanced boarding to a pregnant passenger who requests it. 

So ladies, it’s up to Congress, then Chao and then you to demand that seat early (you’re on your own to haggle for additional cookies from the flight attendants).