The travel industry has mixed opinions today about the passage of the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill, legislation that renews the agency’s funding for another five years.
In addition to providing a total of about $4.35 billion annually for the FAA, the reauthorization bill directs how disaster program funds should be spent, but does not include money for those programs, according to CNN.
It also provides funding for a few major FAA programs, including about $3.35 billion per year through 2023 for infrastructure and an additional $1 billion to create a report on the agency’s Next Generation Air Transportation System to evaluate air traffic control technology.
The House voted 393-13 on the bipartisan measure, which now heads to the Senate.
In the hours after the measure passed in the House, a handful of travel industry organizations and associations issued comment.
The U.S. Travel Association, a national, non-profit organization, was critical of the measure.
“While the bill provides much-needed certainty regarding some aspects of funding and includes several measures that protect travelers and improve the travel experience, the FAA reauthorization bill does not address some of the biggest challenges in aviation: insufficient funding for large hub airports and declining airline options,” U.S. Travel Association Senior Vice President for Government Relations Tori Barnes, said in a statement. “We believe it is a significant oversight to exclude large hub airports from the AIP discretionary grant program and deny them opportunities for infrastructure funding they desperately need to grow and modernize.”
The Alliance for Aviation Across America however, issued a statement applauding the U.S. House of Representatives for passage of the bill.
“On behalf of smaller airports, general aviation operators, farms, businesses and communities across the country, we commend the U.S. House of Representatives for passing a FAA Reauthorization bill that will encourage long-term investment in important airport improvement projects, preserve access to our aviation system for communities of all sizes, and ensure that we retain Congressional oversight over our air traffic control system,” Selena Shilad, the alliance’s executive director, said in a statement.
The alliance expressed support for numerous parts of the bill, pointing out that it ensures long-term funding for the FAA and also encourages investment in important ongoing airport projects by providing funding through 2023 for the Airport Improvement Program.
“It would also support other important priorities such as insulating the FAA registry from future government shutdowns, and supports investments in aviation technical workforce development in light of looming shortages,” said the alliance statement. “Perhaps most importantly though, the bill does not include a provision to privatize the air traffic control system, a harmful provision pushed by the commercial airlines which would have removed the air traffic control system from Congressional oversight and placed this system under a board of private interests.”
In the days before the House took up the bill, it added several amendments including a focus on pet-transport standards in the airline industry. The amendment requires the FAA to enact a set of rules that would standardize the treatment of pets transported on planes, including the banning of animals being stored in overhead compartments.
For its part, the U.S. Travel Association expressed concern that the bill in its current form contains measures that undermine a successful Open Skies policy and “makes it more difficult for new, low-cost international carriers to fly to the U.S.”
“While America seeks to regain its lost share of the international travel market, it is critical that we allow for competition and give travelers more, not fewer, choices,” said Barnes. “We look forward to working with the Senate as they craft their FAA bill and hope that some of these issues—critical to travelers and the travel experience—can be more holistically addressed in a final package.”
CNN reported that the Senate is hoping to take up the legislation by May or June and have a long-term reauthorization settled by August.