On Wednesday, Congress concluded a two-year-long debate on aviation issues as the Senate joined the House in passing a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill. U.S. Travel has long been engaged on the five-year deal, which also includes a three-year reauthorization of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and other programs.
While the passage of this bill is a significant milestone, it has long been our hope that an FAA reauthorization bill would address our nation’s aging and inadequate airports and air travel infrastructure. Our airports are vital to commerce—not to mention the fact that safe, efficient travel is central to the American way of life—and this bill could have been the perfect opportunity to address the infrastructure needs that set our country’s airports so far behind the rest of the world.
While our expectations may not have been fully realized in this bill, we are hopeful that opportunities to address this issue are on the horizon. U.S. Travel will continue to advocate for solutions moving into the next Congress, in which we expect work on a larger infrastructure package is likely.
That said, we are encouraged by a number of other provisions in the bill that increase security, enhance efficiency and the passenger experience, and support economic growth and activity.
The bill contains several positive provisions (many of which mirror recommendations made by U.S. Travel in its report, Transforming Security at Airports) that reform the TSA:
- Require that Precheck lanes to be used only by members of a relevant trusted traveler program.
- Add a third screening protocol pilot for low-risk passengers who are not Precheck members.
- Expand opportunities for travelers to enroll in the Precheck program online or through a mobile device.
- Mandate that the TSA publish wait times at all TSA-run airport security checkpoints.
- Set a target enrollment goal of seven million passengers by October 2019; 10 million by October 2020; and 15 million in October 2021 for the Precheck program.
- Direct the president to appoint the TSA administrator for a five-year term.
The bill also notably omits any provision that would have threatened the U.S.’s Open Skies aviation agreements with other nations. We are hopeful that policymakers continue to side with aviation policies that increase economic activity and growth, and U.S. Travel will remain committed to advocating for solutions to that end.
For a full list of all travel-related provisions in the FAA reauthorization bill, please click here.