The Commerce Committee, led by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), has announced that the bill will include more FAA safety inspectors on factory floors and increase air traffic controllers in towers. Additionally, airlines will be required to improve customer service by offering mandatory refunds for flight disruptions and prohibiting carriers from charging more to keep families seated together.
Despite objections from local lawmakers who argued that it would lead to more delays at the airport, the committee has decided to add five extra slots for long-distance flights from Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) in the bill.
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) expressed his disappointment with this decision, stating that it will only cram more flights onto an already busy runway and negatively impact DMV residents. On the other hand, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), the ranking member on the Commerce Committee, supports the bill and believes that it will help the FAA improve its core mission of keeping the flying public safe while addressing modernization and transformation of its operations.
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 of this bill believe that it will foster innovation and nascent technology such as air taxis, hypersonic planes, and unmanned aircraft amidst challenges faced by the aviation industry.