Senator secures fee refunds for late bags, increased screening of airport employees and development of anti-drone technologies
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Senate today approved a bill to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration, which includes provisions sought by Florida Sen. Bill Nelson to better protect the flying public and enhance airport security.
Among the measures included are fee refunds for late bags, bolstered screening of airport employees and an expanded pilot program to test and develop technologies to intercept or shut down unmanned drones near airports.
Passage of the anti-drone pilot program comes just two days after a British Airways jet was reportedly struck by a drone as it approached London’s Heathrow airport.
“These are some of the most significant aviation reforms the Senate has passed in years,” said Nelson, the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee. “Not only will they improve the safety of air travelers but they will also provide some relief for consumers who feel nickeled and dimed by the airlines.”
Among the measures Nelson pushed to include in the bill are:
- Bag fee refunds: Requires automatic baggage fee refunds for luggage not delivered within 6 hours after the arrival of a domestic flight and 12 hours after the arrival of an international flight.
- Other ancillary fee refunds: Requires the refund of fees for services, such as seat assignments, early boarding and carry-on bags, purchased but not delivered on a flight. Also requires refund of these fees if a passenger cancels the flight.
- Fee disclosure: Requires airlines to provide consumers with a standardized disclosure of all bag fees, cancellation fees, change fees, ticketing fees, and seat selection fees before a ticket is purchased.
- Seat assignments: Requires airlines to notify consumers that they do not have to pay in advance for a seat assignment and that, if they do not, one will be assigned to them for free at the time of check in or prior to departure.
- Protections for disabled travelers: Requires the Department of Transportation to undertake several efforts to improve the travel experience for disabled travelers, including new training policies for airline employees and contractors to provide assistance to passengers with disabilities.
- Anti-drone technologies: Expands pilot program to test and develop various technologies to intercept or shut down unmanned drones near airports and other sensitive areas.
- Drone traffic management: Requires the FAA to work with NASA to test and develop a drone traffic management system.
- Airport employee screening: Improves background checks and increases random physical screenings of aviation workers.
- Flight-control systems hacking prevention: Requires the FAA to develop standards on how aircraft manufacturers can keep flight-control systems separate from in-flight passenger entertainment systems.
The FAA Reauthorization Act now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Bryan Gulley (Senate Commerce Committee)