Senate Democrats

Reid: Republicans Choose Airlines Over Passengers In Grounding Bill To Make Air Travel Safer, More Efficient

Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today after Republicans blocked the FAA Reauthorization Act from coming to the floor: 

“Bush Republicans have once again put big business first and American consumers last, choosing to look out for airlines instead of their passengers.  Our bill would have made air travel safer in the skies and on the runways, help air travelers take off sooner and land safer, help commerce flow with fewer interruptions, and help carriers lower their fuel costs.  It also included a passengers’ bill of rights to ensure travelers are treated with respect during long delays.

“Frequent and infrequent flyers alike already face enough obstacles as they try to go from city to city and state to state.  Republicans’ obstruction is just another unnecessary and unwelcome delay in making our air-traffic systems as safe and efficient as they should be.”


Bush Republicans Block Safer, More Efficient Air Travel


The Democratic FAA Bill Modernizes America’s Outdated Aviation Infrastructure. The Senate measure accomplishes this by providing for the modernization of the air traffic control system to a Next Generation Air Transportation System. In order to pay for this modernization effort the bill calls for levying a modest surcharge generally to be applied to commercial, private corporate and personal, and turboprop flights. [S. 1300 as passed in committee, 5/16/08]

The Democratic FAA Bill Sets Forth An Aggressive Passengers’ Bill of Rights. The Senate measurerequires each airline to develop contingency plans for times when the departure of a flight is substantially delayed while passengers are confined to an aircraft. The plans would need to outline how the airline will ensure passengers are provided adequate food, potable water and restroom facilities, as well as timely and accurate information regarding the status of the flight in the event of a significant delay. The measure requires air carriers to post a description of their consumer protection rights on their websites. Should an airline not develop such a plan, the carrier would have to permit passengers to deplane after three hours have elapsed, unless the pilot believes the flight will depart within 30 minutes after the three-hour delay, or if deplaning raises significant safety or security concerns. Additionally, the bill would mandate improved disclosure of flight information to passengers when purchasing tickets. Airlines would be required to post the on-time performance of chronically delayed, canceled or diverted flights on their website. [S. 1300 as passed in committee, 5/16/08]

The Democratic FAA Measure Improves Runway Incursion Information to Help Avoid Future Accidents. In order to improve airline safety, the measure requires the FAA to issue a plan to provide runway incursion information to pilots in the cockpit and finalize a rule on fuel tank flammability of commercial air carriers. It also would require a National Academy of Sciences study on crew cabin fatigue, the latest research on fatigue and international standards. [S. 1300 as passed in committee, 5/16/08]

  • Republican Obstruction Forces Current FAA Programs to Be Merely Extended Without Needed Modernization. The last full FAA authorization expired at the end of September. The agency has been operating on a series of short-term extensions since then. The FAA’s current authorization expires at the end of June. [CQ Today, 4/24/08]   


Over 30 Airline Industry Trade Associations Joined Forces In Urging Congress to Pass The FAA Measure. In a letter to members, the organizations stressed, “The strength of our aviation system and the ability to meet future demands is dependent upon the federal government’s success in meeting its obligations to provide adequate infrastructure. A critical step in meeting those obligations is for the Senate to advance a comprehensive, long-term bill that will help provide the resources necessary to help our country meet the current and growing demands being placed on the aviation system.” Organizations in the coalition include: the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, the National Air Transportation Association, the Air Carrier Association of America, the Air Line Pilots Association, the Airports Consultants Council, the Airports Council International-North America, the American Association of Airport Executives, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Professional Aviation Maintenance Association, the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. [Aviation Community Letter to Senate Members, 3/5/08]

  • Air Transport Association of America, the Industry Trade Organization for the Nation’s Leading Airlines Praised the FAA Measure. “We are deeply appreciative of the leadership of both the Senate Commerce and Finance committees, in particular Chairman Rockefeller, in crafting a bill that recognizes the importance of not adding new taxes on airline passengers during a time of skyrocketing fuel costs. The modest increase in what corporate jets would pay is a step in the right direction, but we note that it still falls short of the costs they impose on the system,” said ATA President and CEO James C. May. [Air Transport Association of America Press Release, 4/25/08]

Coalition for An Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights Called for Passage of the Democratic FAA Measure. “Without a doubt, a no vote Tuesday is a vote to leave passengers once again stuck on the runway for hours in stinky planes,” said Kate Hanni, Executive Director of CAPBOR, “The coalition considers the vote a critical test of whether Senators have a commitment to protect the powerful airline lobby, or protect passengers. Our members are watching.” Coalition for an Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights (CAPBOR) is the largest non-profit consumer group for airline passengers. CAPBOR has over 23,000 members since being established in February 2007. [CAPBOR Press Release, 5/5/08]