Congress ‘ FAA reauthorization is good for isolated towers, negative for travel agents

A five-year,$ 105 billion reauthorization bill from the Federal Aviation Administration ( FAA ) will ease the installation of new air traffic control technology, make it harder for small time travel agents to make a living, and otherwise leave aviation regulation more or less unchanged. ” This could have been much worse”, says Marc Scribner, a transportation researcher at the Reason Foundation ( which publishes this website ). It’s certainly a great act, but from what we can reasonably expect in the first reauthorization act following COVID, it’s difficult to observe Congress doing something particularly dramatic. The bill was approved by the House 387–26, which was a ballot of 88–4, according to The New York Times. Congress allocated a sizable sum of money to flights and airlines during COVID. Three distinct aid bills totaling$ 54 billion were awarded to the major commercial airlines. Additionally, the airports received$ 25 billion to build and maintain their services as part of the huge infrastructure bill passed in 2021. These strong tax aircraft subsidies were a withdrawal from the traditional method of using “user taxes and fees” to finance aviation infrastructure, according to the Congressional Research Service. The bailouts and subsidies were made on the notion that there would be a sustained decline in air travel demand, which had put pressure on airlines and airports ‘ ability to make money off of ticket sales and user fees. As it happens, the airline sector has bounced back very quickly. Last year, flight earnings were significantly higher. Traveling volumes are exceeding pre-pandemic levels, according to TSA station data. With this year’s reauthorization costs, Congress was attempting to “get its bushings” by largely preserving the status quo, says Scribner. According to him, the most beneficial change is the president’s easing of regulations on distant air traffic control technology. Moving air traffic controllers to rural air traffic control centres, which use infrared cameras and various modern technologies, is becoming more popular in Europe. This makes it easier for devices to track air visitors in cloudy or terrible weather. The centers ‘ construction is also significantly less expensive, making it financially feasible to use them at smaller airports that ca n’t currently afford to install a traditional, windowed control tower. These distant air traffic control centers may be set up to track visitors at several airfields simultaneously because they are not required to be at the exact airports. Isolated air traffic control systems is tested in the terminals where it will be used in Europe. However, the FAA mandates that this technology undergo a lengthy screening procedure at a New Jersey FAA facility. That adds considerable time and cost to its rollout. The new FAA costs calls on the company to determine how to analyze this technology outside of that facility in New Jersey. That will maybe find the FAA to “take the hint” and began letting this technology be vetted at flights themselves, says Scribner. The biggest reviewers of the new FAA costs are smaller travel brokers, who say the fine details of some of the bill’s” customer safeguards” may set them out of business. The Biden administration finalized rules in April 2024 that required airlines to issue computerized cash payments to customers who had had their flights canceled. If they purchased their reservations through a travel agency, the agency is in charge of reimbursing the customer. The issue is that airlines are n’t required to reimburse a travel agent for canceled flights, which could lead to situations where a travel agent might have to pay back their own money before the airline has given them a refund. These prices could be disastrous for a small travel agency that refunds slabs of cards at once. Travel agencies had hoped that the FAA act would resolve this problem. Otherwise, it’s codified the existing laws into rules. Travel companies are no positioned to impose the kind of financial obligations that politicians are doing, according to a declaration from Zane Kerby, president and CEO of the American Society of Travel Advisors. The customer ultimately suffers because travel advisors will be less likely to book flights, leaving the flyer without a representative if their travel plans turn out badly. The FAA reauthorization is also littered with missed options. It avoids revisiting long-standing reform proposals to convert air traffic control operations to a private nonprofit or independent state institution, a practice that is prevalent in most other developed nations. An impartial air traffic control body would, according to proponents, allow for quicker implementation of new technology and end the FAA’s” conflict of interest” created by both regulating and running air traffic control. The bill does n’t make any progress on privatizing airports. It does n’t give airports more room to raise passenger facility fees that pay for the facility’s amenities. It does n’t touch the burdensome flight hour requirements that are causing a growing pilot shortage. Every five decades, the FAA and the majority of the national aircraft applications must be reauthorized. 2018 saw the passage of the most recent reauthorization costs. Since 2023, Congress has been confined to short-term extension charges. Friday will see the expiration of the most recent short-term improvement. Before that time, President Joe Biden is expected to sign the bill into law.