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U.S. House of Representatives Passes Federal Aviation Bill

DALLAS — The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a significant federal aviation bill to tackle aviation safety, improve passenger safety and airlines staff alike. The bill also includes airport and air travel infrastructure invesments.

The bill, set to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as the country's main aviation authority, awaits the signing of POTUS to be coded into law. According to CNN, "The legislation passed the Senate last week. The House vote was 387 to 26."

The bill seeks to provide over US$105 billion in funding for the FAA and US $738 million for the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) for fiscal years 2024 through 2028. While the bill has received bipartisan support, it has sparked debate due to certain policy issues.

One particularly contentious provision involves the proposal to introduce longer-distance flights at Washington, D.C.'s Ronald Reagan National Airport (CDA). CNN says that A group of Democratic senators from the Washington area pushed to remove this provision from the bill, but the chamber did not ultimately take action on it.

As with most flight increase proposals, the issue boils down to the pros of passengers having more flight options and the cons of having a more congested airport experience. It is worth noting that many lawmakers regularly commute between their home states and Washington, and they could benefit from the availability of more convenient flight options.

Alaska Airlines (AS) issued the following statement: "Through the passage of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2024, five new flights were opened to increase direct service to our nation’s capital. Alaska Airlines intends to apply to the U.S. Department of Transportation for one of the new slot pairs to initiate service from San Diego, CA (SAN) to Washington, D.C.’s Reagan National Airport (DCA)."

PHX tower. Photo: Yifei Yu/Airways

Further Provisions

Other provisions set in the bill include hiring more air traffic controllers "to close a gap of 3,000 vacancies" and mandate ATC staffing research and increase access to ATC simulator training. Additionally, the bill provision pushes for the increase of runway technology to improve runway safety and reduce aircraft collisions.

As for passengers, airline refunds are going to be due in cash instead of vouchers and the process automated to come "within a few days." The bill also states that travel credits issue by airlines in lieu of refunds need to be usable for the next five years.

Regarding airline workers, the legislation expands legal protections "to ground-based employees like gate and check-in agents." Additionally, it would enhance Transportation Security Administration (TSA)-taught  self-defense training for flight attendants to fend off unruly passengers.

Finally, the bill addresses an issue raised by the NTSB in January amid the AS Boeing 737-9 door plug blowout investigation: the cockpit voice recording time. If the bill is signed into law, commercial aircraft will carry cockpit recorders that would record 25 hours instead of the current two-hour recording override threshold.

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