The House cleared away a number of potential sticking points that threatened to hold up the bill to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration.
Congress is working to overhaul air travel at a time of growing dysfunction and disruption in the system, as lawmakers haggle over a bill to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration for the next half-decade and make a number of changes that could affect passengers.
The House is set on Thursday to pass its version of the legislation, which would evaluate airlines’ refunds and reimbursement obligations to passengers, enhance protections for passengers with disabilities, address an air traffic controller shortage, bolster aviation safety, unlock funding to modernize airport infrastructure, invest in upgrades to the agency’s technology and more.
A number of sticking points had threatened to hold up a final agreement, including disputes over proposed changes to a pilot training rule and an increase to the pilot retirement age. Republicans and the airline industry largely oppose new regulations of the industry intended to strengthen consumer protections. And Washington-area representatives have said they would block the measure if it allowed for more long-distance flights in and out of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, just outside the capital.
But the House dispensed with some of the major potential obstacles on Wednesday night. It narrowly rejected, 229 to 205, a bipartisan proposal to add seven new round-trip flights to Reagan National Airport, potentially smoothing the road to final passage.
The House approved a bipartisan amendment that would maintain the current standards for pilot training, blocking a proposed change that had been supported by Representative Sam Graves, the Missouri Republican who leads the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, but that faced staunch opposition in the Senate.
The battles had threatened to muck up Congress’s opportunity to try to improve air travel for consumers amid thousands of recent flight delays or cancellations, an uptick in near collisions on runways, a strained air traffic controller work force and a surge in travel coming out of the coronavirus pandemic. And disruptions are only expected to worsen as climate change leads to more extreme weather that grounds flights.