Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), chair of the Commerce Committee, announced that the bill will increase FAA safety inspectors on factory floors and air traffic controllers in towers. She also stated that the legislation will require airlines to improve customer service by implementing mandatory refunds for flight disruptions and prohibiting carriers from charging more to keep families seated together.
The committee agreed to add five extra slots for long-distance flights from Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) despite opposition from local lawmakers who argued it would lead to more delays at the airport. However, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) expressed his disappointment with the decision, stating it would negatively impact DMV residents by cramming more flights onto an already busy runway. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), ranking member on the Commerce Committee, supported the bill, stating it would help modernize and transform the FAA’s operations while keeping flying public safe amidst challenges faced by the aviation industry.
The advancement of this bill follows high-profile incidents involving aircraft safety, including an “explosive decompression” on an Alaska Airlines 737 Max 9 flight last month. Supporters believe that this legislation will foster innovation and nascent technology like air taxis, hypersonic planes, and unmanned aircraft as they address challenges faced by the aviation industry.