Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), chair of the Commerce Committee, recently announced that the bill will include several key measures to improve air safety in the United States. These include increasing the number of FAA safety inspectors on factory floors and adding more air traffic controllers in towers. Additionally, the legislation will require airlines to provide mandatory refunds for flight disruptions and prohibit carriers from charging extra fees to keep families seated together.
Despite opposition from local lawmakers who argued that it would lead to longer wait times at the airport, the committee agreed to add five additional slots for long-distance flights from Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) in the bill. However, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) expressed his disappointment with this decision, stating that it would only lead to more congestion on an already busy runway and negatively impact residents of DMV area. On the other hand, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), ranking member of the Commerce Committee, supported the bill and believed it would help FAA improve its core mission of keeping flying public safe while modernizing and transforming its operations.
The advancement of this bill comes after a series of high-profile incidents involving aircraft safety, including an “explosive decompression” on an Alaska Airlines 737 Max 9 flight last month. The incident occurred when a panel plugging an unused emergency exit door blew off during the plane’s flight. Supporters of the bill believe that it will help foster innovation and new technologies such as air taxis, hypersonic planes, and unmanned aircraft as they face challenges in the aviation industry.