Senate Approved Passenger-Focused Aviation Bill

April 22, 2016
The Senate passed a bill calling for extensive policy changes to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in programs of airline passengers, security and drones.

The Senate passed a bill calling for extensive policy changes to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in programs of airline passengers, security and drones.  

On April 19, the bill was passed 95-3, but still needs to be reconciled with a House measure. 

Travelers were one focus of the overhaul, especially cracking down on consumer fees and promoting family-friendly accommodations.  

The changes would make airlines refund checked-bag fees when they arrive more than six hours after a domestic flights lands, and more than 12 hours after an international flight. Customers would also be automatically refunded for services not provided, such as early boarding or unavailable seat assignment.  

Passengers traveling with young children would be seated together with no extra charge, and pregnant women would be permitted early boarding. There is also to be rooms set aside for nursing mothers.  

Security changes include increasing Transportation Security Administration's [TSA] PreCheck program to shorten security lines, adding 30 more "viper teams" to stop and search "suspicious passengers," often using bomb-sniffing dogs. 

The bill would also require all newly manufactured airliners to have a closeable second barrier between the passenger cabin and the flight deck to prevent anyone from the cabin entering the cockpit when the cockpit door is opened. 

Drones also saw some policy changes with the FAA, including establishing criminal penalties for use of drones near airports, a topic of increased safety concern after a one collided with a British Airways jet this month.  

It may seem like a look into the future, but within two years the FAA will be required to authorize package deliveries by drones and create a "air carrier certificate" for operators of these drone delivery fleets.  

The FAA would also be required to publicly disclose information about government and commercial drone operations, including what type of personal information is being gathered.  

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass) recently introduced a bipartisan bill which would prohibit law enforcement from using drones to collect evidence for any violation of law without a warrant.   

Additional provisions would simplify requirements for private pilots to receive FAA medical certification, speed up the process for receiving small airplane safety certifications and require airlines to include flight attendants fatigue mitigation plans.  

In response to the disappearance of Malaysian Airline Flight 370, the FAA will now be required to develop standards for tracking airlines when the plane fly over remote area out of the range of radar.