WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed bipartisan legislation shaped by Rep. Greg Stanton to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and aviation safety and infrastructure programs for the next five years.

“The bill we are sending to the President’s desk today represents Washington at its best. It’s the result of months and months of hard work and good-faith bipartisan negotiation,” said Stanton. “I’m proud of what we were able to accomplish – major, long-term investments in Arizona’s airports and aviation economy, key safety improvements, and long-overdue consumer protections for the flying public.”

Stanton, the only Arizona member of Congress to serve on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, fought to include several key Arizona priorities in the final bill: 

  • Common-sense consumer protection measures for passengers, including requiring airlines to refund passengers and develop policies to reimburse meal and hotel costs when their flight is cancelled, significantly delayed, or changed if they choose not to fly on the delayed or changed flight; requiring airlines to develop operation resiliency plans to help prevent and limit the impact of mass flight disruptions; and requiring airlines to allow passengers to sit next to their young child to the greatest extent practical at no additional cost; 
  • Measures to make sure disabled passengers can fly safely and with dignity, including: 
    • a measure based on Stanton’s bipartisan Access and Dignity for All People who Travel (ADAPT) Act which would require the Department of Transportation to issue regulations regarding seating accommodations for passengers with disabilities that takes into account being seated next to their companion, and establish an optional Known Service Animal Travel Pilot Program, providing service animal users the opportunity to participate in a streamlined pre-registration process;
    • a measure based on Stanton’s Store On-Board Wheelchairs in Cabin Act, which would require airlines provide information on the airline website—and anywhere people can make reservations— regarding the rights and responsibilities of both airlines and passengers as to the availability of on-board wheelchairs. It would also require annual staff training regarding assisting people with disabilities on the use of on-board wheelchairs and the right to request an on-board wheelchair; 
  • Significantly increasing funding for Airport Improvement Program grants to $4 billion annually, and expanding grant eligibility for terminal projects—a priority for Arizona’s fast-growing airports;
  • Establishing an FAA Contract Tower Conversion pilot program, a priority for Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport. This pilot program would convert some high-activity contract air traffic control towers like Gateway—staffed by private companies rather than the FAA employees—to FAA-staffed Visual Flight Rules towers, while allowing qualified contract air traffic controllers, of which over 70 percent are veterans, to remain at their current tower. Gateway is the busiest contract tower in the nation, but severe air traffic controller staffing shortages have forced operational changes at the airport.
  • Common-sense safety improvements to prevent near-misses, including addressing the national air traffic controller shortage by increasing the maximum hiring amount and identifying the most appropriate staffing model for future air traffic controller workforce needs—a measure Stanton raised at a roundtable with Sky Harbor air traffic controllers in February of this year—and expanding ground surveillance and detection equipment at large and medium hub airports;
  • Establishing a program based on Stanton’s Drone Infrastructure Inspection Grant Act to provide grants for local governments to purchase drones or contract for services to inspect critical infrastructure and help ease the nation’s serious inspection backlog, and train the next generation workforce on the use of this technology.

The bill has earned praise from Valley aviation leaders. 

“Congressman Stanton’s instrumental role in securing the pilot program provision in the FAA Reauthorization Act is a testament to his unwavering commitment to the safety and success of the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport,” said Mesa Mayor John Giles. “Passenger safety is our highest priority and this pilot program ensures that the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport remains at the forefront of safety standards.  Mesa extends its appreciation to Congressman Stanton for his support and dedication to our community’s aviation infrastructure.”

“The FAA Reauthorization Act contains several policy improvements that will enable Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport to continue to be an economic engine for the greater Phoenix Region and the State of Arizona. In particular, the bill contains a provision that will allow the Airport’s Air Traffic Control Tower to compete for inclusion in a pilot program designed to optimize tower staffing,” said J. Brian O’Neill, A.A.E., Executive Director/CEO, Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport Authority. “We are grateful for the support of Congressman Stanton and our Senators in securing this provision.”

“FAA reauthorization could not come at a better time for Phoenix Sky Harbor and our system of airports. We continue to see dramatic increases in passenger traffic year-over-year, and this legislation will provide our industry much-needed increases in funding for capital projects,” said Chad Makovsky, aviation director for the City of Phoenix Aviation Department. “I want to thank Congressman Stanton and his team who have worked so diligently to ensure that our interests were represented in the final bill.”

Bill text is available HERE and a section-by-section is available HERE.