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Update: The bill passed in the House, but still needs to go through the Senate later this week. Fingers crossed!
Last week, senior members of the transportation committees of both the House and Senate announced that they had come to an agreement on a new aviation bill that will improve airport security, lessen screening lines and mandate that airlines refund baggage fees when a passenger’s luggage is lost or delayed. In addition, the bill would extend the FAA’s legal authority through the end of 2017. In other words: Congress wants to legislate a kinder, gentler airport experience. It sounds great on paper, but will it work?
Given the bipartisan nature of the agreement, all signs seem to be pointing to a quick approval of the bill, which would be necessary, as the FAA’s legislative authority is set to expire on July 15 — which, technically, is already an extension from March 31. Among the bill’s requirements: airlines will have to refund any checked bag fees to passengers whose luggage gets lost or delayed for at least 12 hours on a domestic flight or for more than 15 hours during overseas travel; and children under the age of 14 must be seated adjacent to an adult or older child traveling with them, according to a recent article by Fortune. Its main focus, however, is on improved security.
In an effort to help travelers get through airport screening lines faster, the bill will force the TSA to hire a marketing agency to promote and encourage more passengers to sign up for TSA PreCheck and require that PreCheck lanes be open and operational during an airport’s busiest travel times.
It will also authorize a pilot program to test out new screening systems for both passengers and baggage, speeding up the time it takes for both you and your luggage to get from an airport’s entryway to your departure gate. When new security equipment is brought in, this same bill will ensure that the replaced devices be donated to international airports offering direct flights to the United States, thus helping to improve security outside the TSA’s jurisdiction as well.
The bill will also double the number of TSA security personnel who are tasked with manning the airport’s common areas located outside the security perimeter. It will also place even tougher screening practices on airport employees who are given regular access to secure areas.
This week will be telling in terms of exactly where this bill goes next. But John Thune, chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, doesn’t seem worried, saying that Congress is “on the verge of passing the most comprehensive aviation security reforms in over a decade.”
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.
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