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Schumer Says FAA Bill That Passed Late Last Night Will Help Ensure America Remains #1 In Aviation Safety, Protecting Regulations Created In The Wake Of Colgan Air Flight 3407 In Western NY, Tackling The Air Traffic Controller Shortage, & Surging Billions For Infrastructure Upgrades At Airports To Keep Them In Top Shape And Attract New Service

New Senate-Passed Bill Will Also Ensure Families Can Sit Together On Flights Without Fees, Make It Easier To Get Refunds, And Much More

Schumer: New FAA Bill That Senate Just Landed Means Safer Skies & Smoother Air Travel For NYers!

After months of relentless advocacy, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer today announced the Senate passage of the historic $105 billion five-year reauthorization Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to improve the safety of our skies, strengthen consumer protections for passengers & families traveling, and bolster the critical programs that Upstate NY airports relay on for infrastructure upgrades.

Schumer explained that in the bill, he was able to protect the 1500-hour pilot training requirement he created in lockstep with the families for the Flight 3407 plane crash in Western NY. In addition to other major safety provisions such as hiring more air traffic controllers, the bill includes major new consumer protections like helping ensure family can fly together at no additional fee and improving refund policies for delayed flights. 

“The U.S. prides itself on being one of the safest nations in the world for air travel and the Senate’s passage of the bill means we are living up to this title. It is a win-win-win: a win for our Upstate NY airports, a win for safety, and win for passengers across America. From billions more for the grant programs our Upstate NY airports rely on to helping tackle the national shortage of air traffic controllers, this bill will help New Yorkers have safer skies and smoother flights,” said Senator Schumer. “I am especially proud that the just-passed bill also preserves the 1500 hour rule I created with the Flight 3407 families, and thanks to my efforts, the rule was not weakened by even a single hour. Aviation safety has been front of mind for millions of Americans recently, and this F.A.A. bill will help give people the peace of mind they deserve, all while helping make a smoother travel experience.”

Specifically, Schumer highlighted major provisions he secured below:

Improving Air Safety

Protects the 1500 Hour Rule And Pilot Training & Safety Standards Created By The Flight 3407 Families

Schumer personally fought to ensure the FAA bill contained the vital 1500-hour rule, which is a regulation he created after the tragic Flight 3407 crash in Buffalo. The FAA provision requires pilots to have at least 1,500 flight hours before they can work as a certified Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) and become a First Officer for an airline.

Schumer has been a relentless advocate for air safety for years. In February, Schumer announced by working alongside the Flight 3407 families, he successfully protected the essential aviation safety regulations put in place after the tragic crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407 in the markup of the Senate Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) re-authorization bill. After the tragic crash in 2009, Schumer worked with the families who lost loved ones in the crash, to pass the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010 requiring the FAA to develop regulations to improve safety, including enhanced entry-level pilot training and qualification standards, pilot fatigue rules, airline pilot training and safety management programs, and the creation of an electronic Pilot Record Database. For the over a decade since, Schumer has worked together to protect the essential aviation safety regulations put in place after the disastrous crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407 in Senate FAA re-authorization bills, including getting the FAA to reject Republic Airways’ request, along with any other request, to scale back the flight-safety regulations.

Prevents ‘Near Misses’ & Runway Close Calls

Schumer said with a shortage of approximately 3,000 air traffic controllers nationwide, the bill requires that FAA increase hiring of air traffic controller staff to bolster the workforce and close staffing gaps. This is a vital provision which will work to combat the increase in close calls at airports in the past year, the highest number in more than a decade, connected with overstretched air traffic controllers regularly required to work up to 60 hours a week. Schumer said hiring more controllers will make our airports and runways safer for both employees and travelers.

Schumer also said the bill implements a zero-tolerance policy for near misses, runway incursions, and surface safety risks by requiring the FAA to use the latest technology to keep runways safe during takeoff and landing.

Schumer said overall the FAA bill contains a whopping $66.7 billion to fund key safety programs, from aircraft certification reform to air carrier oversight, and enable hiring, training and retention of safety-critical staff like air traffic controllers and technical engineers.

Schumer said the bill also authorizes $738 million in appropriations for the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the highest ever funding for the agency, increasing airline safety, providing training in emerging technologies, and hiring more investigators.


Ensures Families Sit Together For NO Additional Fees

Schumer fought to ensure the FAA bill requires fee-free family seating. The final FAA bill directs DOT to prohibit airlines from charging fees for families to sit together so working families are not burdened by fees just so their young child can sit with a parent. Schumer has long been an advocate against airline’s deceptive junk fees, which are expensive and create extra headaches for parents traveling with children.

Up until March of 2023, no U.S. airline guaranteed fee-free seating for children 13 or under and an accompanying adult at no additional cost, but following pressure from the USDOT and years of the senator’s advocacy, 4 major airlines agreed to these requirements. Schumer has continued to push to ensure families are no longer burdened by unnecessary fees that pinch Americans’ pocketbooks.

In addition, Schumer highlighted the below provisions secured in the FAA bill:

  • ENSURES Passengers Get Their Money Back After Airlines Cancel Flights: For the first time, passengers will have clear standards in law for refunds when an airline cancels or significantly delays a flight.  A refund will be required if a domestic flight is delayed 3-hours and if an international flight is delayed 6-hours.
  • STOPS Airline Ticket Credits from Expiring Before Families Can Use Them: When airlines offer credits or in lieu of a refund, credits must be good for at least 5 years—so they don’t expire before they can be used.
  • Increases Transparency and Ensures Consumers Get Answers by requiring airlines to provide free, 24/7 access to customer service agents by phone, live chat or text message.   
  • Sets Reimbursement Policies after Delayed or Cancelled Flights by mandating that airlines establish policies regarding reimbursement for lodging, transportation, and meal costs incurred due to a flight cancellation or significant delay caused by the air carrier.
  • Fines Airlines For Consumer Violations: To hold airlines accountable, the bill triples the DOT’s statutory civil penalty for consumer violations from $25,000 per violation to $75,000.


$4 Billion to Rebuild Airports, Terminals and Runways Across America

The FAA bill boosts funding for the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) to revitalize airports and enhance airfield safety at airports, one of the most widely used federal grants by Upstate NY airports in order to make critical modernization and safety upgrades.

$15 Million Per Year So Rural And Small Airports Can Continue To Provide Quality Service

Schumer said the bill increases funding for Small Community Air Service Development (SCASD) grants by 50% to $15 million per year to help small communities attract new air service to their small airports. Schumer explained adequate air service has become imperative to the success of our local economies but, rural communities have struggled to retain or attract commercial airline service. This funding will ensure that rural and small airports have the fed support needed to continue to provide service for families in rural communities. Upstate airports like Greater Binghamton Airport have tapped into this program in order to expand service options for fliers in the region.  

More than DOUBLES Funding For Essential Air Service Program That Guarantees Service To Small & Rural Communities From $160 million to Nearly $350 million

Schumer has worked for years to ensure NY’s airports are adequately funded and this FAA bill strengthens the Essential Air Service (EAS) program and increases funding by over 111% per year to ensure small and rural communities maintain regular commercial service.

In New York State, five airports currently depend on this critical program: Massena International Airport, Ogdensburg International Airport, Plattsburgh International Airport, Adirondack Regional Airport, and Watertown International Airport. The bill also makes it harder for airlines to terminate contracts that could leave communities without air service by incentivizing airports to keep their essential air service contracts, protecting families in areas that would not have easy access to an airport without the small one in their community.

Schumer has consistently delivered funding for New York through the EAS program, including a $4,701,099 annual subsidy for American Airlines to continue operations at Watertown International Airport to fund 12 nonstop round trip flights per week from Watertown to Philadelphia International Airport from. The EAS program was authorized at an average of $163 million in the 2018 FAA bill.