Markey votes against FAA Reauthorization Act that does not include his bipartisan FAIR Fees provision
Washington (October 3, 2018) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a member of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, issued the following statement after voting in opposition to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2018. The legislative package does not include Senator Markey’s Forbidding Airlines from Imposing Ridiculous (FAIR) Fees provision. The bipartisan provision, which was included in the Senate Commerce Committee approved FAA bill, would ensure that change and cancellation fees are reasonable. It would also direct the FAA to establish standards for assessing whether baggage, seat selection, same day change, and other fees are reasonable and proportional to the costs of the services provided. United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, and Jet Blue Airways have recently raised fees for checked bags.
“Congress has missed an historic, once in a generation opportunity to stop gargantuan airlines from gouging Americans with exorbitant fees every time they fly,” said Senator Markey. “It is Congress’s obligation to protect the public from abusive practices that harm consumers. Instead, after a ferocious lobbying blitz by the airline industry, the airlines won, and passengers lost. The result: airline fees remain sky high and frustration with the modern flying experience continues to grow. I vow to the flying public that this fight will not die with this bill. As airlines continue to raise fees, pressure will mount on Congress to put a stop to this fee gouging once and for all.”
“Despite the bill’s deficiencies, this legislation does include many of my provisions that will modernize our aviation security practices, strengthen our privacy rights, and give passengers more consumer protections when they fly. Prohibiting the use of mobile devices for voice communications during flight; banning knives on planes; promoting the transparency of drone operations – these are the key ingredients to keeping our aviation sector safe, secure, and fair.”
The following Markey provisions were included in the FAA reauthorization legislation that passed the Senate today:
- No Cell Phone Calls on Planes – Senator Markey’s provision would require the Department of Transportation (DOT) to prohibit the use of mobile devices for voice communications while flying. Passengers should not have to suffer through the conversations of others, and flight crews should not be disrupted while performing their important safety and security duties. Senator Markey and Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) introduced bipartisan legislation prohibiting the use of cell phones for voice calls during flight.
- Drone Privacy – Senator Markey’s drone privacy provisions enhanced the commercial and government drone database established by the bill by requiring drone operators to disclose if they collect personally identifiable information about an individual, how the personal data will be used, and when the sensitive information will be destroyed. Senator Markey’s provisions also ensure that American’s have access to information regarding the location, purpose of flight, and technical capabilities of government drones, and improve the data minimization of government drones and encourage privacy research at drone test sites. Many of these safeguards are included in the Drone Aircraft Privacy and Transparency Act, which Senator Markey and Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) introduced last year.
- No Knives on Planes – Senator Markey’s provision would ban small knives on planes. Following the September 11th terrorist attacks, when hijackers used knives and box cutters to hijack four aircraft, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) added knives to the prohibited items list, banning knives on planes. Regrettably, in 2013, the TSA proposed to allow small folding blades up to 2.36 inches (6 centimeters) in length, to be carried onto aircraft, a proposal the TSA later rescinded. One year ago, Senator Markey, Congressmen David P. Joyce (OH-14) and Daniel W. Lipinski (IL-03) introduced legislation banning small knives on planes.
- TSA Screening Technology – Currently, TSA uses X-ray screeners for carry-on luggage, which only provides a 2-D image of bag contents. Senator Markey’s provision would direct the TSA to carry out a pilot program testing more advanced screening technologies for carry-on luggage. This pilot would test the feasibility of deploying computed tomography screening technologies, which provide a 3-D representation of baggage. These more advanced and sophisticated screening technologies could help TSA detect and forestall threats to our aviation safety.
- Aviation Extreme Weather Study – Senator Markey’s provision would commission a study on the effects of extreme weather on commercial air travel.
- Voluntary Safety Program Improvements – Voluntary safety programs are safety partnerships allowing flight crewmembers, mechanics, flight attendants, and other aviation employees to voluntarily report safety issues to the FAA and company management without the threat of legal action or discipline. Senator Markey’s provision would require that individual’s voluntary disclosure of safety concerns be automatically accepted by the FAA and airlines, so this information can be utilized more quickly.
- Biometric Technologies – Senator Markey and Senator Lee’s (R – Utah.) amendment modified a provision of the bill to ensure that the TSA and Customs and Border Protection cannot expand the deployment of biometric technologies beyond mandates in existing law. The provision would also require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to study the viability of the technology, including privacy implications and accuracy.
- Aviation Security Funding – ensures all revenue collected from 9/11 security fees are used to help finance the costs of aviation security beginning in 2027. In September, Senator Markey and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) introduced the FASTER Act, which will ensure that revenues collected from aviation security fees are immediately used to help finance the costs of aviation security, including screening equipment, personnel, and research and development. In the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks, Congress established the September 11 Security Fee to help finance the cost of securing the nation’s aviation transportation system. However, in 2013, Congress began diverting approximately one third of the revenue generated by these security fees for deficit reduction.
Senators Markey and Roger Wicker (R-Miss) introduced the Forbidding Airlines from Imposing Ridiculous (FAIR) Fees amendment, which was included in the Senate FAA Reauthorization bill. The legislation passed the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee in June. Three weeks ago, Senators Markey and Wicker, and Representatives Steve Cohen (TN-09) and Walter Jones (NC-03) sent letters to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, calling for the inclusion of the FAIR Fees provision in the final FAA Reauthorization Act. Last year, Senator Markey and Senator Blumenthal reintroduced the FAIR Fees Act.