Last updated: 10:45 PM ET, Wed July 13 2016

Senate Overwhelmingly Passes FAA Reauthorization Bill

Airlines & Airports | Rich Thomaselli | July 13, 2016

Senate Overwhelmingly Passes FAA Reauthorization Bill

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The U.S. Senate on Wednesday passed the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill over an overwhelming voice vote of 89-4.

The bill – also approved by the House of Representatives on Monday – now goes to the desk of President Obama, who is expected to swiftly sign it into legislation before funding for the FAA technically runs out on Friday.

Of the many provisions in the bill, perhaps the most important are the measures to provide important, time-sensitive safety and security improvements to the U.S. aviation system in what many are calling the most significant airline security bill in the last 10 years.

“Today, Congress passed the most significant airport security reform bill in a decade,” U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, said in a statement. “Reforms in our bill will help protect air travelers in South Dakota and around the country, and it will help ensure that attacks like those in Brussels and Istanbul do not happen in American airports. I’m proud of the Commerce Committee’s work in leading this effort, and I look forward to seeing the president sign this bill into law before the end of the week.”

READ MORE:FAA Reauthorization Includes Provision For Airlines To Seat Families Together

According to the Associated Press, the bill also includes several consumer protections. Airlines would have to refund checked bag fees to passengers whose luggage is lost or is delayed 12 hours or more for domestic flights or 15 hours or more for international flights. And airlines will also be required to ensure that children 13 years of age or younger are seated next to an adult or older child traveling with them, although Southwest Airlines successfully lobbied to allow discretion to exempt airlines that don't offer assigned seating but do provide adjacent seating for families through other means.

The National Air Transportation Association (NATA) praised Congress for taking swift action on the bipartisan agreement.

“Lawmakers have long-considered aviation a non-partisan matter and the legislation now before the President for signature represents the hard work of congressional members and staffs from both sides of the Capitol and political aisles,” William R. Deere, the association’s senior vice president for government and external affairs, said in a statement. “However, some key aviation issues remain unresolved so we will continue to work with Congress toward enactment of more comprehensive, long-term legislation that includes improving the agency’s regulatory consistency and other provisions that will assist the agency and aviation businesses to operate more efficiently.”

Among those issues that remain unresolved? The bill did not address the movement to privatize air traffic control operations and take it away from FAA oversight.

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