Republicans block legislation in committee to protect consumers from excessive airline fees

Washington (March 16, 2016) – Today, the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee unanimously passed legislation to continue the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) authority to operate through September 2017. Several amendments from Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) were included in the final legislation, including amendments to better protect the privacy of Americans from commercial and government drones. Additionally, Senator Markey’s amendments that would ensure no knives are allowed on planes and that the Department of Transportation (DOT) has the authority to prevent passengers from talking on cell phones while in the confined compartment of a passenger jet were included in the legislation.

Senators Markey, Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) also introduced an amendment to authorize the DOT to prohibit airlines from charging unreasonable cancellation, change, and baggage fees and other fees. The provision failed along a mostly party-line vote. The amendment was the same text as a bill Senators Markey and Blumenthal introduced the previous week, the Forbidding Airlines from Imposing Ridiculous (FAIR) Fees Act, which prohibits airlines from imposing fees that are not reasonable and proportional to the costs of the serves provided.

“I thank Chairman Thune and Ranking Member Nelson for their leadership crafting a bipartisan bill and for working with me to include many of my amendments,” said Senator Markey. “As more and more drones take flight in our skies, the need to protect Americans’ privacy is paramount. I am pleased that we are taking important steps in this bill to enact 21st century rules of the sky, including promoting transparency of drone operations. And while Republicans blocked my amendment to reign in excessive airline cancellation, change, and baggage fees, I will bring this amendment to floor when the full Senate considers the FAA reauthorization bill.”

The following amendments were adopted by the Committee:


Markey amendment 9 would enhance the commercial and government drone database established by the bill by requiring that drone operators disclose if they collect personally identifiable information (PII) about an individual, including through the use of facial recognition, how the personal data will be used, including for advertising or marketing purposes, and when the sensitive information will be destroyed.  


Other amendments that improve the drone privacy section include: Markey amendment 5 ensuring that the commercial and government database is easily searchable and prominently displayed on the FAA website; Markey amendment 11 would ensure that the database is publically available through September 30, 2017; Markey amendment 6 would allow Americans to determine the location, purpose of flight, and technical capabilities, such as cameras or license plate readers, of government drones; Markey amendment 12 would require privacy research at drone test sites; Markey amendment 13 would improve the data minimization requirements in the bill.


Markey amendment 22 would prohibit the TSA from allowing passengers to carry small, non-locking knives through screening checkpoints or on board passenger aircraft.


Markey amendment 24 would provide the DOT with authority to prohibit anyone on an aircraft, except the crew and law enforcement, from talking on a cellphone during flight. 


In March 2015, Senator Markey and Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) introduced bicameral legislation to establish safeguards to protect the privacy of individuals from the expanded use of drones. The Drone Aircraft Privacy and Transparency Actensures standards for informing the public about the location, timing and ownership of unmanned aerial vehicles.