BY CHRIS GALFORD
The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, or HR 4, is heavily focused on consumer protections and does much more than simply maintain the status quo. Rather, it sets a minimum size for aircraft seats, prohibits passengers from being removed once seated, demands airline transparency over compensation policies for unforeseen events like delays, lost luggage and overbooking, and establishes what is essentially a bill of rights for passengers with disabilities. It also, thanks to an amendment from U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI), requires a review of airport and airline personnel training, if they are the ones assisting those with disabilities.
“I am proud that this bill makes substantial progress in expanding the rights of all Americans to travel with dignity,” Langevin said. “As someone who knows firsthand the challenges of flying with a disability, it is important that we have a modern framework to prevent discrimination. Air carriers have made substantial progress since the 1980s, but with over 30,000 complaints still being filed annually, we have a ways to go before we can achieve the goal of truly equal access to the skies.
Along with the new additions, the bill reauthorizes FAA programs to continue for another five years. It flat funds the Airport Improvement Program and requests better integration of drones into the U.S. airspace. Notably, it also drops a much-debated effort to privatize the air traffic control system.
“Rhode Islanders have seen the benefits of expanding service at TF Green Airport, and funding from the FAA has been an important part of our improvement projects,” Langevin said. “I also hope the Senate will take a more robust view toward drone regulation by including the bill Senator Whitehouse and I introduced to provide clear criminal penalties for recklessly operating drones in a way that endangers safety.”
The bill now heads to the full Senate floor for further consideration.