House Passes FAA Bill That Adds Reagan Airport Flights, Sends It to President’s Desk

Jacob Burg
By Jacob Burg
May 15, 2024Congress
House Passes FAA Bill That Adds Reagan Airport Flights, Sends It to President’s Desk
U.S. Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-La.) delivers remarks after the House of Representatives held an election in the U.S. Capitol on Oct. 25, 2023. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the long-awaited Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill on May 15, sending the legislation to President Joe Biden’s desk after the Senate cleared it last week.

The bill, which cleared the chamber in a 387-26 vote, reauthorizes FAA programs through fiscal year 2028 and invests more than $105 billion into the agency. It addresses the 3,000-plus shortage of air traffic controllers by requiring the FAA to set maximum hiring targets and staffing standards.

The legislation also improves safety standards to avoid additional near-collisions on airport runways, makes it easier for customers to request refunds from airlines when flights are canceled or delayed, and adds five new roundtrip flights each day to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

That last provision created headwinds for the Senate ahead of its May 9 vote when Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) vowed to block the FAA legislation without first discussing their amendment to strip the portion adding more flights to Reagan National.

The two senators called it a “terrible idea” to add more flights to Reagan National in a May 9 statement after the busy airport almost saw a plane collision on April 18 when air traffic controllers cleared two planes to enter the same runway simultaneously. Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) echoed those concerns on May 14 in a floor speech.

A similar incident at JFK International Airport in New York City the day prior raised concerns that FAA air traffic controllers are overworked and understaffed.

“For over a century, the United States has led the world in aviation safety and innovation. Unfortunately, our gold standard status has been threatened by increased global competition, rapid developments in technology, a shortage of aviation professionals, [and] influences at the FAA due to process failures [and] inadequate practices,” Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) said on the House floor on May 14.

Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), who co-sponsored the bill with Mr. Graves, also spoke in support.

“I’m proud to support this five-year reauthorization to ensure that American aviation continues to be a powerful economic engine that creates good-paying jobs and supports local communities across the country,” he said.

Another supporter, Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.), lauded the bill’s push for aviation innovation.

“Not for yesterday’s aviation industry, but truly for tomorrow’s: this bill reorganizes the FAA in a way that recognizes new technologies, the need for the FAA to move faster, [and] to move more seamlessly,” he said.

“This bill will bring the FAA out of the 20th century and allow us to lead it globally in the 2030s and beyond,” he added.

To avoid missing the original May 10 deadline, which would have caused the furloughing of more than 3,000 FAA employees, the House passed a one-week extension of the bill on May 8. As a result, Congress is now able to send the legislation to President Biden’s desk two days before FAA programs were set to expire.

Some of the other provisions include $66.7 billion to fund “key safety programs” for the FAA, such as hiring and training new air traffic controllers and technical engineers.

There is $17.8 billion to modernize FAA facilities and equipment, $19.35 billion to improve infrastructure at more than 3,300 airports nationwide, $1.59 billion for FAA “research, engineering, and development” to ensure America remains competitive in aerospace technology, and $738 million for the National Transportation Safety Board.

The bill requires all commercial airplanes to implement 25-hour cockpit voice recording devices to “preserve critical data” on flights, and it deploys new “airport surface situational awareness technologies” to prevent further near-collisions on runways.

In addition to hiring new air traffic controllers to offset current FAA shortages, the legislation streamlines job pathways for Veterans, creates a new committee to prioritize hiring more women in aviation, and updates the FAA staffing model to hire more safety inspectors.

“Bottom line, our bill encourages the growth of our aviation workforce through targeted and meaningful reforms,” Rep. Sam Graves said.

One of the most popular portions of the bill involves customer refunds from airlines. It requires airlines to display “easy-to-find refund request buttons” on their websites and offer refunds to customers whenever a domestic flight is delayed by three hours and an international flight is delayed by six hours.

If airlines offer flight credits in place of refunds, those credits must be honored for at least five years. The bill prevents airlines from charging additional fees for family members to sit next to each other during flights and triples the penalties for any airlines who violate the new consumer protection rules.

Four bipartisan lawmakers—Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas); and Mr. Graves and Mr. Larsen—successfully brokered the 1,000-plus-page FAA reauthorization bill on April 29.

The much-anticipated bill is one of Congress’s last major pieces of legislation before the November election, which will determine which party controls both chambers in 2025.

“I believe the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2024 is one of the farthest-reaching, most consequential pieces of legislation that the House will consider in the 118 Congress,” Mr. Graves added.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the date of the bill’s final passage. The House passed the bill on May 15. The Epoch Times regrets the error. 

From The Epoch Times

ntd newsletter icon
Sign up for NTD Daily
What you need to know, summarized in one email.
Stay informed with accurate news you can trust.
By registering for the newsletter, you agree to the Privacy Policy.