The bill to improve air safety, introduced by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), has been approved by the Commerce Committee. It includes provisions to increase the number of FAA safety inspectors in factories and air traffic controllers in towers. Additionally, airlines will be required to provide mandatory refunds for flight disruptions and prohibit charging families extra to seat together.
While there were concerns from local lawmakers that it would lead to more delays at the airport, the committee decided to add five extra slots for long-distance flights from Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA). However, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) expressed his disappointment with this decision, arguing that it would only add more flights onto an already busy runway, negatively impacting DMV residents. In contrast, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a member of the Commerce Committee, supported the bill and believed that it would help the FAA improve its core mission of keeping passengers safe while also modernizing and transforming its operations.
The bill’s approval comes after several high-profile incidents involving aircraft safety, including an “explosive decompression” on an Alaska Airlines 737 Max 9 flight last month. Supporters of the bill believe that it will help foster innovation and emerging technologies like air taxis, hypersonic planes, and unmanned aircraft as they face challenges in the aviation industry.