Senate panel advances FAA reauthorization

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The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation advanced a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) bill Thursday tackling issues including accessibility and foreign aviation safety measures.

“This bipartisan bill delivers improvements to aviation safety and consumer protections that Americans have been demanding,” Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), chair of the Commerce committee, said in the committee’s press release on the advancement. 

“The bill will put more FAA safety inspectors on factory floors and more air traffic controllers in towers,” Cantwell continued. “It forces airlines to improve customer service—establishing mandatory refunds for flight disruptions and barring carriers from charging extra for families to sit together.”

The committee also agreed to add five extra slots for long-distance flights for Reagan National Airport (DCA) as part of the bill Thursday, despite historic opposition from local lawmakers that it would only drive up delays at the busy airport.

“I’m disappointed to see the Commerce Cmte add additional slots at DCA to this year’s FAA reauthorization,” Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said Thursday on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “Cramming more flights onto the busiest runway in America is a bad idea. We can’t let backroom deal-making by out-of-region senators steamroll the needs of DMV residents.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (D-Texas), the ranking member on the Commerce committee, said the bill will “help ensure the FAA can improve at its core mission of keeping the flying public safe.”

“With the aviation industry facing serious challenges, this legislation charts a course to address many of them while also modernizing and transforming the FAA’s operations,” Cruz said in the committee press release. “The legislation will also nurture innovation and nascent technology like air taxis, hypersonic planes, and unmanned aircraft.”

The bill’s advancement also comes in the wake of high-profile issues with aircraft safety, most notably an incident in which an “explosive decompression” occurred on an Alaska Airlines 737 Max 9 flight from Portland, Ore., to Ontario, Calif., when a panel plugging an unused emergency exit door blew off during the plane’s flight last month.

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