Weekly Columns

The Senate, under Republican leadership, has been focusing on making Washington work for America. The most recent example of our efforts is the bipartisan passage of an update to our nation’s aviation laws. This bill enhances consumer protections, strengthens air traveler security, and expands international competitiveness of aerospace manufacturing.

This bill has been called “one of the most passenger-friendly” FAA reforms in years by a columnist at the Washington Post and it’s easy to see why. In an era when air travel has become increasingly frustrating, this bill will upgrade the experience from the moment a traveler books a flight on through to arrival at his or her destination.   

Among the new consumer protections included in the bill are requirements that airlines disclose fees to consumers, provide refunds for delayed baggage and return fees for purchased services (like seat assignments and early boarding) that are not received. The bill directs the Department of Transportation to review how airlines provide information on decisions to delay or cancel flights that may be fully or only partially due to weather and it requires airlines to provide families with information about the availability of seats together at the time of booking.

The new consumer protections are coupled with provisions to make our airports and planes more secure.

The recent attack on the Brussels airport is a tragic reminder that radical Islamic terrorists remain committed to attacking our commercial airlines and our bustling transportation hubs. This bill takes responsible steps to prevent these types of attacks from happening here at home. It expands enrollment in the Transportation Security Administration’s Pre-Check program so passengers can move through security lines more quickly, improves airport employee vetting to ensure dangerous individuals don’t have access to secure areas and enhances security for international flights bound for the United States.

In keeping with changing times, the bill also protects passengers by including several safety provisions related to drones. It boosts enforcement and clarifies federal and local roles regarding drones.

 The bill also increases international competitiveness of aerospace manufacturing, including manufacturers in Arkansas, like Falcon Jet, by improving the certification process. It ensures funding for Arkansas airports, including an additional $400 million authorization for the nationwide Airport Improvement Program and maintains access to our nation’s aviation system for millions of Americans in rural areas by reauthorizing the Essential Air Service Program and the Small Community Air Service Development Program. 

I was particularly pleased that the FAA reauthorization included language I authored that allows pilots to fly many types of small, light aircraft without a third class medical certificate. The light-sport aircraft program has demonstrated that these changes can occur without compromising safety.

Thousands of pilots, including many from Arkansas, have asked the FAA to expand the light sport aircraft medical exemption to cover additional small aircraft. The language I authored provides limited medical examinations, but the requirements will be much less burdensome, and additional tools and training will be provided to ensure that pilots are safe to fly.

This bill puts the needs of the traveling public first. It is further evidence of Senate Republican’s commitment to listening to the American people and making Washington work effectively for everyone.