Congress passed its air travel overhaul. Here’s what that means for WA

Congress handed a $105 billion invoice Wednesday reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration, a must-pass piece of laws that funds the company overseeing air journey in the US.

Inside the 1,000-plus-page invoice are a number of updates to guidelines governing air journey and aviation that may have direct impacts on aerospace firms like Boeing and the thousands and thousands of passengers who journey via U.S. airports every day.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., stated the invoice delivers “large wins” for Individuals. Cantwell, chair of the Senate commerce committee, was one of many lead negotiators on the invoice, together with U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, rating member of the Home Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. They had been joined by Republican counterparts Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and U.S. Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo.

Right here’s what’s altering, and never altering, below the FAA reauthorization invoice:

Refunds: Passengers are entitled to a refund if their flight is canceled or delayed — three hours for a home flight or six for a world flight — and so they select to not rebook or settle for journey credit. Beneath the reauthorization invoice, airways will robotically challenge the refunds. This codifies Division of Transportation regulation on refunds introduced final month. Households who sit collectively on a flight received’t be charged charges to take action.

Boeing 767 freighters extension at Everett plant: The invoice features a provision that may grant Boeing 5 further years to proceed constructing 767 freighters at its Everett plant. Boeing had been anticipated to section out the airplane in 2027 as a result of it doesn’t adjust to worldwide emissions guidelines. Boeing can construct the cargo carriers till 2033 below the supply, which was first reported by The Air Present.

Air site visitors controller scarcity: The FAA is required to enhance its staffing requirements and set targets for hiring to deal with a scarcity of air site visitors controllers. The FAA had 13,865 controllers in 2023 and desires to rent roughly 3,000 extra. In Washington state, air site visitors management facilities are roughly 88 controllers brief — towers are about 75% staffed, in keeping with Cantwell’s workplace.

Up to date recording units: All industrial planes can be required to have recording units within the cockpit that may retailer 25 hours of audio as an alternative of present units that solely file for 2 hours. Lawmakers repeatedly cited the Alaska Airways flight in January the place a panel blew out because the flight climbed out of Portland as one purpose for the up to date recording gadget. In that occasion, the cockpit recording within the moments after the blowout was overwritten.

Accessibility: The reauthorization requires the FAA to look into whether or not it’s economically and financially possible to have seating preparations on planes that accommodate passengers with wheelchairs in the principle cabin. It additionally features a provision that the FAA enhance its evacuation requirements — the present requirements require that each one passengers have the ability to evacuate inside 90 seconds, however lawmakers argue that testing doesn’t have in mind full flights or passengers with disabilities. The Muscular Dystrophy Affiliation known as the invoice probably the most important enchancment in air journey for individuals dwelling with disabilities in almost 40 years.

“The FAA reauthorization is a vital step to creating an equitable, protected, and dignified journey expertise for individuals with neuromuscular and associated disabilities,” MDA President and CEO Donald S. Wooden stated in a information launch. 

Analysis, workforce improvement and education schemes: The reauthorization invoice continues the operations of the FAA’s Facilities of Excellence program, which gives coaching and analysis via partnerships with faculties together with the College of Washington and Washington State College. The invoice will increase funding to $60 million per 12 months for grants to recruit and develop the aviation workforce; $12 million can be devoted to an aviation training program to recruit and maintain members of underrepresented communities throughout the aviation trade.

Reagan Nationwide Airport slots: One of the vital hotly debated points over months of negotiations had nothing to do with security oversight or shopper protections. As a substitute, lawmakers fought over whether or not so as to add further long-haul flights on the primarily short-haul Reagan Nationwide Airport outdoors Washington, D.C. Lawmakers who opposed the change stated their colleagues had been sacrificing security so as to add direct flights to their dwelling states. Alaska Airways already operates a flight to Reagan from Seattle, so it’s unlikely any of these slots would go to a different Seattle flight.     

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