Travel Leaders Weigh In On US Senate Passage of FAA Reauthorization Bill
On Tuesday, the United States Senate passed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill (S.2658) by a vote of 95-3.
"We believe this to be one of the most passenger-friendly FAA reauthorization bills in a generation," said the bill's lead sponsor, South Dakota Sen. John Thune, chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.
Key points of the bill include an increase in airport security and requiring airlines to refund baggage fees if bags are delayed. The bill did not increase the Passenger Facilities Charge to fund airport improvements, nor did it address the privitization of air traffic control.
Key travel industry groups had polar opposite reactions to the bill.
The U.S. Travel Association commented on the positives and negatives of the bill and what they mean for the travel industry. First, the government will take a deeper look at the impact of immunity from antitrust prosecution on airfares and airline competition, which should help improve the customer experience.
The new bill also includes a TSA PreCheck Expansion Act. This section of the legislation would help simplify the security process in airports across the United States, while also opening opportunities for the private sector to partner with the Transportation Security Administration.
While there were many portions of the bill that are great news for the travel industry, officials from the U.S. Travel Association also believe the legislation missed the mark in regard to the requested adjustment to the Passenger Facility Charge cap.
U.S. Travel Association CEO Roger Dow released a statement about the reauthorization bill:
“The U.S. travel community thanks and congratulates the Senate for passing an FAA bill that includes many sensible provisions for improving air travel. As we've said before, the guiding principles for any aviation reform measure should be that it is pro-competition, pro-growth and pro-traveler. This bill takes steps in that direction, though we still have work to do to achieve many of the substantial reforms that America's aviation system needs.”
“The U.S. travel community commends Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) for their leadership on ushering this legislation through the Senate, and hopes that the House will quickly take up this bill.”
Airlines advocacy group Airlines for America had a different view of the bill, specifically happy to see no rise to the PFC.
"We commend Chairman Thune and his colleagues for holding the line against an unnecessary airport tax hike on the traveling public," said A4A President and CEO Nicholas E. Calio.
Calio said the Senate missed a huge opportunity to address and solve the nation's air traffic control problem through privatization of the process. He made the point that ATC systems are more stressed than ever after passenger numbers in the U.S. rose for an unprecedented sixth year in a row.
"We look forward to working with leaders in both the House and Senate to produce a final bill that delivers the critically important reforms to our nation’s ATC system that airline customers deserve,” he said. “We continue to believe that now is the time to take bold action to bring our nation’s skies into the 21st Century and to reclaim the United States role as a leader in aviation technology and innovation – before we face a crisis.”
A4A also took issue with portions of the bill that would reregulate airline pricing and services. The group released a study last week that found that 80 percent of airline passengers were satisfied with their overall experience, including the prices paid for airfare.
“Air travel is more accessible and affordable than ever before,” Calio said. “Despite the high level of satisfaction among airline passengers, the Senate bill contains unnecessary provisions that would take a step backward to pre-1978 regulation polices and make it more difficult for consumers to afford to fly.”
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