04 October, 2018

The US Senate passes the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2018.

The big news this week in the aviation industry from the United States of America came on Wednesday when the US Senate passed the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2018.

To those of us outside of the US, this bill passed relatively unnoticed, without much drama or fanfare, but on the other side of the pond, it will have a big impact on air travel by providing long-term certainty and security for the aviation industry throughout the US. Also, perhaps unusually for these politically divided times, the bill passed with bipartisan support. But what is the act really all about?  Putting it simply, it basically gives the US FAA approval to carry on for the next five years, to continue with all its normal operations as well as a number of other new programmes, improvements and regulations including on seat sizes and critters in the cabin. The bill, which will now be sent to the US President, Donald Trump to approve and sign into law also includes the requirement for the FAA to instigate minimum sizes for aircraft seats and legroom within a year as well as more regulations to prevent airlines from offloading passengers.

Another part of the act deals with animals, which have been making news over the last few years in the US as a wide variety of creatures have been allowed in the aircraft cabins as 'emotional support animals' leading to bites, attacks and various problems. Many airlines have introduced new rules recently to reduce and specify what can be taken onboard as emotional support animals. The act instructs the Transportation Department to set rules for service and emotional support animals including “reasonable measures to ensure pets are not claimed as service animals.” which will help with the uniformity of regulations.  The act also prohibits putting a live animal in overhead luggage racks, although I can only find one case of that actually happening.

There are many safety initiatives included in the act, which have been welcomed almost universally by flight attendants in the US, include:
10-hours Minimum Rest and a FRMP for Flight Attendants
No Knives on Planes Ever Again
Ban of Voice Calls on Planes
Emotional Support and Service Animal Standards
Air Quality: Technologies to Combat Contaminated Bleed Air
Protect Customer Service agents from assaults
Cabin Cyber Security Vulnerabilities
Secondary Cockpit Barriers
Safe Transport of Lithium Batteries
Study on Cabin Evacuation Certification (including cabin configuration)
Increase Civil Penalties for Crew Interference from $25,000 to $35,000
Banning Electronic Cigarette Smoking on Planes
Congressional Focus on Addressing Sexual Misconduct on Planes
Establish National Inflight Sexual Misconduct Task Force
Require DOJ to Establish Reporting Process for Sexual Misconduct
Prioritize Support for Flight Attendant Drug and Alcohol Program (FADAP)
Requiring Privacy for Nursing in the Airport
Evaluation and Update of Emergency Medical Kit Contents
Oxygen Mask Design Study
Develop Guidance for Non-Toxic Prevention of Transporting Insects
Exit Row Evaluation and Verification
Required notification of Insecticide use
Promoting Women in Aviation
TSA Authorization
Continue Crewmember Self-Defense Training
NTSB Reauthorization
Improve Consumer Notification of Insecticide Use
Expanded Human Trafficking Training for Airline Personnel
Authorization of Essential Air Service.
"Flight Attendants cheer the passage of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 with a provision to combat Flight Attendant fatigue by increasing minimum rest from 8 hours to 10 hours. This bill closes a safety loophole while improving Flight Attendant health and achieving equal minimum rest with our flight deck counterparts," said Sara Nelson, President of The Association of Flight Attendants in the US. "This bill lifts standards for Flight Attendants across the industry and addresses serious safety, health and security issues in our workplace - the passenger cabin," Nelson concluded after thanking all the politicians that supported the act's passing. 

The Airlines for America (A4A) President & CEO Nicholas E. Calio issued the following statement,  "Today, with a vote of 93 to 6, the Senate joined 398 members of the House of Representatives in showing overwhelming, bipartisan support for the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2018. The legislation provides long-term certainty, which is critical toward maintaining a safe and affordable travel experience for consumers in communities across the country and throughout the world. The Senate Commerce Committee leadership – along with their staffs – should be commended for achieving a long-term bill that protects the interests of both the travelling and shipping public, as well as the more than 700,000 workers in the commercial aviation industry."

Many US airlines have welcomed the news the act had been passed, including leading mega carrier American Airlines, whose chairman and CEO, Doug Parker said,  “American Airlines commends Congress for passing a bipartisan, multiyear FAA bill that will provide needed certainty, enhance safety, and help us better serve our team members, customers and airports throughout our network. - We thank Chairman Shuster, Ranking Member DeFazio, Chairman Thune and Ranking Member Nelson for their leadership and commitment to the aviation industry, as well as their staffs for their hard work on this legislation.”