Main cabin passengers pass the time aboard American Airlines flight 2331, a Boeing 787-800 Dreamliner, an route from Chicago O’Hare International Airport to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, on March 5, 2018. (/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
Photo: Jerome Adamstein
Photo: Jerome Adamstein

FAA bill includes benefits for consumers, Atlanta airport, Gulfstream

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday passed a long-awaited Federal Aviation Administration bill, which includes a number of measures that could benefit consumers and some items expected to help Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and Savannah-based Gulfstream.

The bill, approved with a 93-6 vote, “means a lot for citizens traveling to and from our Georgia airports,” Georgia U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson said in a written statement. It also “includes needed reforms to help improve the flying experience for Americans,” and “cuts down regulatory burdens for manufacturers,” he said.

The bill now awaits the president’s signature.

In addition to renewing funding for the FAA for another five years, the bill addresses some long-standing traveler frustrations like shrinking airline seats. It calls for the FAA to set minimum standards for airline seat sizes.

It also prohibits involuntary bumping of passengers who have boarded the plane, requires private rooms for nursing mothers in large and medium-sized airports and requires airlines to promptly return fees for extra services like early boarding if they don’t deliver.

After being signed into law, the FAA re-authorization legislation also will bar the use of e-cigarettes on flights, ban in-flight phone calls, require the regulation of service and emotional support animals on aircraft, and make it unlawful to put a pet in an overhead compartment.

However, it does not include an amendment proposed by some legislators aimed at limiting airline fees, nor does it privatize air traffic control, as had been considered in past negotiations.

The bill includes language to allow airports to use federal funding for backup power generation, an issue that has gained focus after the massive power outage that struck the Atlanta airport last December.

In the wake of the outage, Hartsfield-Jackson International has already launched plans to spend $130 million on emergency generators and officials said they were watching the legislation. They said the airport “welcomes any funding source that might advance our ability to provide necessary infrastructure to facilitate safe and secure movement of passengers and goods.”

The FAA re-authorization legislation also includes reforms of the aircraft certification process, which is expected to benefit Savannah-based jet maker Gulfstream.

Gulfstream vice president Robert Glasscock said in a written statement that the bill will “help ensure the FAA and U.S. manufacturers remain the global leaders in aviation safety” with certification reform that address delays in bringing safety-enhancing products to market.