FAA Reauthorization

July 16, 2016
President Signs FAA Extension, Funding Until Sept. 2017

President Obama has signed an FAA extension bill that will lock in current FAA funding levels for 14 months, until September 30, 2017.

TWU opposed passage because it included a provision that has the potential to cost some of our members their jobs. In response to recent terrorist attacks on European airports, this measure includes language that increases scrutiny of aviation workers. Specifically, the law instructs the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to update Security Identification Display Area (SIDA) badges and extend the background check lookback period from the current 10 years to 15. There is no credible evidence pointing to an insider terrorist threat at U.S. airports and TWU argued strongly against this provision. Read more

March 16, 2016
House of Representatives Update

On February 11, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passed its version of the FAA bill, the “AIRR Act,” on a 34–25 party line vote, with Republicans supporting and Democrats opposing. The bill’s future is uncertain because it includes controversial provisions to privatize the FAA air traffic control system.
Senate Update

The Senate Commerce Committee marked up the FAA reauthorization on March 16. The bill could head to the Senate floor as soon as April. The committee adopted several amendments, including:
  • A ban on cell phone use during flight.
  • A ban on knives in airplane cabins.
  • Flight attendants must receive training to combat human trafficking.
  • FAA must review aircraft evacuation standards.
  • FAA must issue a flight attendant Fatigue Risk Management Plan.
(The House bill included a stronger bipartisan provision that required 10-hours minimum rest between duty periods.)

Senate FAA Bill Released

On March 9, the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee released a draft of the FAA reauthorization bill, which lays out the policy and laws for the aviation sector. This is a two-year bill that would expire on September 30, 2017, which is the end of the 2017 federal fiscal year.
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This legislation includes some TWU-supported provisions but doesn’t have everything we have called for. Oversight of foreign aircraft repair stations would be increased but there is no language banning mobile phone use on airplanes. Fortunately, there is no air traffic control reform language; the system would remain federal.
The Commerce Committee will mark up the proposal March 16, which will provide an opportunity to make amendments. Senate floor action may happen sometime in April. The House of Representatives must also pass an identical bill before it gets sent to the president.
Please take some time to review the legislation highlights below and share the information with your co-workers. TWU will follow up soon with calls to action. Not signed up for our action alerts? Add your e-mail here.

Bill Sponsors: The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2016 was introduced by Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who serve as the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee. Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), the chair and ranking member of the Aviation Subcommittee, are original co-sponsors.

Mobile phone use: The bill does not ban cell phone use on planes. The AIRR Act, introduced in the House of Representatives earlier this year, did include this TWU-supported language. 

Foreign Repair Stations: FAA must act to ensure that the safety assessment system established for foreign repair stations places particular consideration on inspections of stations that conduct scheduled heavy maintenance work on part 121 air carrier aircraft. Consideration must account for the frequency and seriousness of any corrective actions that part 121 air carriers must implement to aircraft following such work at such repair stations. Measures must meet standards set by international agreements and the laws of the country in which a repair station is located.
      The FAA must issue an alcohol and drug testing rule for foreign repair station employees. Each employee of a foreign repair station who performs a safety-sensitive function on an air carrier aircraft must take a pre-employment background investigation to determine whether the individual presents a threat to aviation safety. (Sec. 2502)
Airplane in clear blue sky  
Flight Attendant Duty Fatigue: FAA must issue a rule to increase the scheduled rest period for flight attendants from 9 to 10 hours. (Sec. 2306)
Training Flight Attendants to Identify Human Trafficking: Airlines must train flight attendants to identify and report human trafficking. (Sec. 2307) 
Emergency Medical Kits: FAA must revise onboard emergency medical equipment regulations, including the contents of the first-aid kit to address the needs of children requiring an epinephrine auto-injector. (Sec. 3105)
FAA Safety and Health Officer: FAA must create a Designated Agency Safety and Health Officer (DASHO). This senior executive would be responsible for auditing occupational safety and health issues across the FAA, overseeing FAA-wide compliance with relevant federal occupational safety and health statutes. (Sec. 2501) 
Safety Critical Staffing: DOT Inspector General must audit FAA staffing to determine the number of aviation safety inspectors that are needed to fulfill the mission of the FAA and adequately ensure aviation safety. (Sec. 2504)
Transportation of lithium cells and batteries: FAA must update rules to prohibit the bulk transport of lithium ion batteries on passenger aircraft and cargo shipment of lithium batteries with an internal charge above 30 percent. (Sec. 2317)
Involuntary Changes to Itineraries: The Department of Transportation (DOT) must review whether it is unfair or deceptive for air carriers to change the itinerary of a passenger, more than 24 hours before departure, if the new itinerary involves additional stops or departs three hours earlier or later without compensation to the passenger. (Sec. 3102)
Additional Consumer Protections: DOT must to issue a regulation on the transparency of airline ancillary fees to consider requiring an air carrier to provide notification and refunds, or other consideration, to a consumer who is impacted by: 1) delays or cancellations when an air carrier has a choice as to which flights to cancel or delay during a weather event, or 2) involuntary itinerary changes. (Sec. 3103)
Refunds for Delayed Baggage: DOT must issue regulations requiring airlines to promptly and automatically refund checked baggage fees when the company delays returning the baggage to the passenger. (Sec. 3109)
Refunds for Other Fees that are Not Honored by a Covered Air Carrier: DOT must require each air carrier to promptly provide an automatic refund of any ancillary fees paid for services that the passenger did not receive on a passenger’s scheduled flight, on a subsequent replacement itinerary, or on a flight cancelled by the passenger. (Sec. 3110)
Disclosure of Fees to Consumers: DOT must issue regulations requiring each air carrier and ticket agent to disclose in a standardized format the baggage fee, cancellation fee, change fee, ticketing fee, and seat selection fee of that air carrier. Disclosures must be prominently displayed to a consumer prior to the point of purchase in clear and plain language and in an easily readable font size. (Sec. 3111)
Seat Assignments: DOT must require each air carrier and ticket agent to disclose to consumers that the selection of preferred seating for a flight and any associated fees are optional and that, if a consumer does not pay for a preferred seat, a seat will be assigned to the consumer from available inventory prior to departure. (Sec. 3112)
Child Seating: DOT must require air carriers and ticket agents to disclose whether adjoining seats are available at no additional cost at the time of purchase or, if such seats are not available, to disclose what the air carrier’s policy is for accommodating adjoining seat requests prior to departure. This requirement would apply if a reservation includes a child under the age of 13. (Sec. 3113)
Consumer Complaint Process Improvement: Air carriers and ticket agents must inform consumers of an airline carrier service, at the point of sale, that the consumer can file a complaint about air carrier service with the air carrier and with DOT. (Sec. 3114)
Dimensions for Passenger Seats: The FAA must review passenger seats size for safety considerations. (Sec. 3121)
Comprehensive Aviation Preparedness Plan: A multi-agency task force must develop a national aviation communicable disease preparedness plan. (Sec. 5007)
Interference with Airline Employees: The Government Accountability Office must study crimes and violence against airline customer service representatives. (Sec. 5009)