Update April 5, 2016: This bill was co-opted through the Senate's amendment process to serve as the legislative vehicle for a reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Originally, it was known as the "America's Small Business Tax Relief Act" and extended property expensing tax deductions for small and medium-sized businesses and was passed by the House in February 2015.
This bill would reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for fiscal years 2016 and 2017, make reforms affecting air travelers and safety programs, and lay out regulations for drone aircraft. The FAA is funded through July 15, 2016 following the passage of a short-term reauthorization in March 2016.
The FAA would receive a total of $16.1 billion in fiscal year 2016 and $16.6 billion in fiscal year 2017 to collectively fund its airport planning program, acquisitions of air navigation facilities and equipment, and general operations. The formula that allows the FAA to spend more than 90 percent of air travel-related tax revenues from the Airport and Airway Trust Fund would be also be extended. The Essential Air Service program that facilitates air service at small airports would be funded at a level of $155 million annually for fiscal years 2016 and 2017.
The Dept. of Transportation (DOT) would be required to review the causes of flight delays and cancellations and report to Congress regarding the review’s outcome and any recommendations. It would also consider whether it is an unfair or deceptive practice to change a traveler’s itinerary over 24 hours in advance if the new itinerary requires additional stops or departs three hours earlier or later without offering compensation or alternative air travel.
A number of other consumer-focused reforms would be implemented if this bill becomes law, including:
A required study of airport accessibility best practices for people with disabilities, limited mobility, or visual or hearing impairments beyond those recommended in prior legislation;
New regulations requiring baggage fee refunds if an air carrier fails to deliver a passenger’s checked baggage within a specified timeframe;
Standardized disclosures of fees for baggage, cancellation, seat selection, or ticketing that are prominently displayed prior to purchase in an easily readable font size;
Notices to families with children about the availability of seats together at the time of booking;
Reviews of how airlines provide information about decisions to delay or cancel flights that may be fully or partially due to weather-related causes.