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5 Ways Travelers Could Be Affected by the FAA Reauthorization Bill

FAA reauthorization bill includes rules for cell phone usage, families seated together and increasing the Passenger Facility Charge.

The latest bill to reauthorize funding to the Federal Aviation Administration is being met with the typical Washington response as politicians and interest groups make their voices heard about the legislation. Although the bill centers around shifting American air traffic control systems, others are ensuring their input makes it into law as well.

Officially titled the Aviation Innovation, Reform and Reauthorization Act of 2016 (AIRR), the bill will reauthorize funding to the FAA on the caveat that the current air traffic control systems are split into a separate entity. However, the 273-page bill focuses on broad changes in aviation, including commercial drone regulations and family-friendly airport improvements.

If the bill goes into law, frequent flyers could see much more than air traffic control changes on future flights. Here are five ways travelers could be affected by the reauthorization bill.

1: Splitting air traffic control operations away from the FAA

The primary focus of the bill is a controversial change that has been discussed throughout 2015. Under AIRR, America’s air traffic control would be broken away from the FAA and into a separate not-for-profit corporation.

In a study released earlier in February, Delta Air Lines contended that breaking control away from the FAA would increase airfare prices. On the other side, airline trade organization Airlines for America praised the move as a modernization of American infrastructure.

2: Mandating families sit together on airplanes

Air traffic control changes are not the only situation to be addressed by AIRR. A set of lawmakers have inserted language from the Families Flying Together Act of 2015 into the bill. The additional language would create a mandate that families with children 13 or younger on the same itinerary sit together on a commercial flight. As a separate bill, the Families Flying Together Act has been defeated twice in committee.

Family travel has created quite a stir in the United Kingdom, where families have accused low-cost carriers of charging extra to sit together. In the United States, splitting families in commercial aircraft has also caused a number of alleged problems.

3: Allowing for increases to the Passenger Facility Charge

If AIRR were to pass into law, flyers could also be paying more in airport fees. The bill allows an expansion of current Passenger Facility Charges (PFCs) to “small hub” and “medium hub” airports. The fees can ultimately add $4.50 per departure.

In 2015, Airlines for America expressed their opposition to the increase of PFCs to FlyerTalk, concerned that the originally proposed increase of up to $8.50 could hypothetically cost a family of four an additional (approximate) $64 round trip. However, proponents of a PFC expansion contend that the additional funds would go to improving American aviation infrastructure.

4: Additional training for identifying human trafficking around the world

Flight attendants could also be held to a higher standard if AIRR passes. In addition to standard training for disruptive passengers and recognizing intoxicated flyers, attendants would also be trained in recognizing human trafficking.

Many groups have expressed support for the legislation, including the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA labor union. In addressing human trafficking from a flight attendant’s perspective, FlyerTalk’s resident crew member Sarah Steeger wrote: “When we believe we are witnessing a serious crime in action, any training that improves our skills for assessing people is valuable and a win for everyone’s safety.”

5: Improving overall air infrastructure safety

Finally, AIRR will also task the FAA with improving overall flyer safety both on the ground and in the air. If the bill passes, the FAA will be required to review commercial aircraft evacuation policies. The review will be presented to Congress within one year, along with any recommended changes.

Additionally, cybersecurity will become a focus if AIRR becomes law. The administrator of the FAA will be tasked with creating a “strategic cybersecurity plan” for the American aviation infrastructure, including identifying action items to reduce vulnerability. Cybersecurity was an aviation hot-button issue in 2015 after one flyer claimed to access aircraft controls through the in-flight entertainment system.

[Photo: Getty]

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starflyer February 9, 2016

In 2015, Airlines for America expressed their opposition to the increase of PFCs to FlyerTalk, concerned that the originally proposed increase of up to $8.50 could hypothetically cost a family of four an additional (approximate) $64 round trip. However, proponents of a PFC expansion contend that the additional funds would go to improving American aviation infrastructure. If American aviation infrastructure needs to be improved, why are PFC (Passenger Facility Charges) required? Surely PFCs should only go towards passenger facilities. If there's a need for aviation infrastructure improvements, surely the taxes on aviation fuel and fees assessed to airlines should take care of that.

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Sabai February 9, 2016

"Airlines for America expressed their opposition to the increase of PFCs to FlyerTalk, concerned that the originally proposed increase of up to $8.50 could hypothetically cost a family of four an additional (approximate) $64 round trip." Seriously? Airlines Against Americans is a lobbying group that wants to keep the ME3 out of the US. Does anyone think that they give a crap about the consumer or the cost of flying? Smisek is now head of that group - enough said.