The broad aviation policy bill reflects senators' deep concerns about the recent terror attack in Brussels
The bill also takes steps to prevent cybersecurity attacks on the airline industry
The Senate on Tuesday cleared an overhaul of the Federal Aviation Administration that includes new safeguards against terrorism, new consumer protections for airline travelers and new regulations for the nascent drone industry.
The broad aviation policy bill, which passed 95-3 and still needs to be reconciled with a House measure, reflects senators’ deep concerns about the recent deadly terrorist attack at the airport in Brussels by setting up new security measures to protect against similar attacks in “soft” parts of airports, such as ticket counters and baggage claims.
It responds to recent alleged criminal and terrorist activity by airport workers by requiring tougher vetting of those employees in order to block attacks by those with easy access to sensitive areas of airports and planes.
The bill also takes steps to prevent cybersecurity attacks on the airline industry.
Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune, R-South Dakota, the principal author of the bill, said it “is critical to addressing holes in our nation’s airport security.”
The bill would set into law numerous benefits for travelers, many of whom are frustrated by the way they are treated by the airlines. For instance, it makes it easier for parents traveling with children to find affordable seats together. It requires improved disclosure of airline fees dealing with baggage and seat selection. And it addresses “truth in weather delays” by requiring the government to look at how airlines disclose the reasons for delayed and canceled flights and whether they are caused entirely by bad weather.
The bill also sets up a variety on new rules for drones aimed at safety and privacy concerns while allowing the burgeoning and potentially transformative industry to thrive. It includes measures dealing with eventual package delivery by unmanned aircraft.
Proposals to mandate an increase in seat size on airlines and to change rules to prevent fatigue in cargo plane pilots didn’t get into the bill.