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U.S. Congress negotiators from the House of Representatives and the Senate agreed this morning (April 29) on language of a long-term FAA reauthorization bill addressing potential safety breaches as well as consumer protections. The House voted in favor of a reauthorization bill in July 2023 that would have included raising the mandatory airline pilot retirement age to 67 from 65. But in February this year, the Senate Commerce Committee rejected that element of the proposed five-year, $105 billion FAA reauthorization measure. According to a Reuters report, the mandatory-retirement-age extension is not in the bill agreed to this morning by House and Senate negotiators. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill later this week.

Among the provisions that are still included in the 1,000-page document are measures prohibiting airlines from charging extra for families to sit together; a required five-year period for airlines’ vouchers and credits to remain valid; and a mandate for 24-hour cockpit voice recorders. Not included, according to Reuters, were other “stricter consumer rules” proposed by the Biden Administration.

While consumer concerns are prominent in the news about the agreement (it includes raising the maximum civil penalty for airline passengers’ consumer violations to $75,000 from $25,000), in large part, the reauthorization legislation addresses concerns over aviation safety following months of alarm over near-collisions and quality-control discrepancies, primarily focused on Boeing. The negotiator-approved version of the legislation addresses FAA staffing shortfalls in air traffic controllers (a need for 3,000 new controllers) as well as inspectors, engineers, and technical specialists. The five-year timeframe for the FAA reauthorization bill also includes five years’ funding for the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

In a joint statement, Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell (D. Wa.) joined the top Republican on the panel Ted Cruz; House Transportation Committee Chair Sam Graves (R. Mo.), and top Democratic member of the committee Rick Larsen; writing, “…now more than ever, the FAA needs strong and decisive direction from Congress to ensure America’s aviation system maintains it cold standard.”

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