Senate Passes FAA Bill That Enhances Safety and Passenger Rights

Jimmy Williams

The Senate approved a comprehensive aviation bill late Thursday, aiming to improve air travel by addressing issues such as air traffic controller staffing, runway incidents, and flight refunds. The $105 billion, five-year measure renews the authority of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and includes several key provisions to enhance safety and passenger experience.

One significant aspect of the bill is the prohibition of airlines from charging families to sit together, ensuring that families can fly together without additional fees. Additionally, it mandates the installation of 25-hour cockpit recording devices on airplanes, an upgrade from the current two-hour requirement, and calls for the implementation of advanced airport surface technology to prevent collisions.

The legislation also mandates the addition of five daily round-trip flights at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and requires airlines to honor vouchers and credits for at least five years, providing flexibility for passengers.

Following recent incidents, such as the Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 9 door plug emergency, efforts to bolster aviation safety have gained momentum. The bill addresses these concerns by enhancing staffing standards and hiring more air traffic controllers, inspectors, engineers, and technical specialists.

Despite calls to raise the mandatory pilot retirement age to 67, this provision was not included in the bill. However, measures were taken to expedite refunds for passengers whose flights are canceled, and civil penalties for airline consumer violations were increased from $25,000 to $75,000 per violation.

While the FAA will determine minimum seat size requirements, the bill mandates the creation of a Transportation Department dashboard displaying the minimum seat size for each U.S. airline, providing transparency to consumers.

Additionally, the bill renews the authority of the National Transportation Safety Board and allocates resources to enhance safety investigations. It also promotes the integration of drones and air taxis into national airspace and extends government counter-drone authority until October 1.

The House of Representatives is expected to finalize the bill next week, marking a significant step toward improving aviation safety and passenger rights in the United States.

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