On April 19, the Senate approved an aviation bill that would not only protect airline passengers but also boost airport security. This new aviation bill will also accelerate the employment of package-delivery drones.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2016 passed on a bipartisan vote of 95-3. The aviation bill is on its way to the House of Representatives, wherein a complementary FAA proposal is also in the works.
"We've given the House a good bi-partisan blueprint to follow and one that they ought to pass easily. Adding controversial measures could put the bill in jeopardy and result in a big loss for consumers and for the safety of the flying public," said Florida Senator Bill Nelson in a press release.
The aviation bill's main sponsor, South Dakota Senator John Thune added that the bill will provide airline passengers with more preferences in cases when airlines fail to deliver.
The bipartisan aviation bill was introduced by Thune and Nelson along with New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte and Washington Senator Maria Cantwell.
Some of the airline passenger benefits include a more standardized disclosure of airline fees so consumers can compare ticket prices better. The aviation bill requires airlines to automatically refund the fees of any checked-in bags that arrive six hours (domestic) and 12 hours (international) post landing.
The aviation bill also obliges airlines to refund the fees for any add-on services that didn't happen such as unavailable seats and early boarding that were pre-paid.
Pregnant women will be allowed early boarding. Airlines will also be required to set aside a room for the mothers who wish to nurse on board.
In terms of airport security, some of the additions include the increase of Transportation Security Administration's "viper teams" -- from 30 to 60 -- that scrutinize suspicious travelers in airports.
The aviation bill pushes for stricter inspection of employees with access to the airport's secure areas and requires airports to tighten the access to these areas.
As for the drones, the new aviation bill obliges the FAA to authorize package-delivering drones within two years. Criminal penalties will be established to address any reckless drone usage.
The bill further requires the FAA to disclose to the public any ongoing commercial and government drone activities. This information should include what type of personal data the drones gather in the course of their activities.