Cantwell Delivers Passenger-Friendly FAA Reauthorization Bill, Secures Consumer Protections for Traveling Public – Including Refunds for Delayed Baggage

Legislation Includes Key Provisions for Washington State Aviation Industry, Airports

WASHINGTON, D.C. –Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), the former chairman and current ranking member on the Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security, secured passage of the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2016. Senator Cantwell is an original co-sponsor of the bill.

After years of complaints and concerns, travelers will now have added consumer protections when flying. The pro-consumer bill, which reauthorizes the Federal Aviation Administration and related programs through the end of fiscal year 2017, provides numerous passenger-friendly provisions:

  • Disclosure of fees - Creates a standard method for airlines to disclose airlines’ ancillary fees (baggage, seat selection).
  • Refunds for delayed baggage - Requires airlines to return baggage fees when items are lost or delayed.
  • Automatic refunds - Requires airlines to automatically return fees for services purchased but not received such as seat assignments, early boarding, carry-on bags.
  • Notice to families with children - Requires airlines to provide families with information about the availability of seats together at the time of booking.
  • Truth in weather delays - Directs the Department of Transportation to review how airlines provide information on decisions to delay or cancel flights that may be fully or only partially due to weather related causes.

“Travelers face longer lines, steeper fees and packed planes -- it’s time we make air travel more consumer-friendly. This bill does just that,” said Cantwell.

In addition to the expanded consumer protections, the legislation improves aviation safety, makes reforms to certification processes to help the aerospace industry better compete in a global economy, improves drove safety and innovation, and builds on critical airport infrastructure investments.

The bill also includes a Cantwell-backed provision that strengthens U.S. airport security, especially in non-secure “soft” target areas at airports like check-in and baggage claim areas, including updates to federal security programs to provide active shooter training for law enforcement and increases the presence of federal agents with bomb-sniffing canines.

“This bipartisan bill strikes the right balance of aircraft safety, airport security, and consumer protection,” said Cantwell. “I’m glad we were able to include important provisions for Washington’s aviation industry and airports which are economic drivers for local and regional economies.”

See a full list of what the bill does here.


Provisions important to Washington state

The legislation includes several Cantwell-backed provisions to boost Washington state’s aviation industry and support airports throughout the state, including:

  • Increases Drone Safety and Innovation

With the rise of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), the bill lays out includes numerous safety and privacy provisions such as protecting airspace around airports, prohibiting UAS from interfering with firefighting activities (including wildfires), and promoting adoption of written UAS privacy policies.

  • Makes Critical Investments in Aviation Infrastructure

Increases the funding authorization for the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) by $400 million to $3.75 billion per year, supporting jobs and improving safety at U.S. airports.

  • Reforms the FAA’s Contract Tower Cost-Share Program

Under the current program airports that contract out their air traffic control must pay a portion of their operating costs to run their towers. Cantwell’s provision changes the current cost structure to provide an exemption from the cost-sharing program for small airports, like Walla Wall Airport, that have at least 25,000 annual passenger boardings. If signed into law, the provision could save the Walla Walla Airport more than $85,000 per year.

  • Reforms FAA Certification Standards

Establish a new Organization Delegation Authority Office allowing the FAA to ensure uniform application of certification rules. This will increase efficiency of the currently decentralized certification process and minimize delays – saving resources for companies like Boeing which are subject to sometimes lengthy and confusing certification processes.

  • Requires Moratorium of Cuts to Contract Weather Observers (CWOs) until Completion of Study

CWOs take physical measurements of meteorological conditions and are especially important at airports such as Spokane International Airport which experience frequent icing and other extreme conditions. The FAA has proposed cutting Contract Weather Observers at 57 airports across the country, and Cantwell’s provision requires the agency to conduct a study of those cuts and implements a moratorium on any cuts until the study concludes.

The legislation cleared the Senate on a 95-3 vote and now awaits passage in the House of Representatives.