Markey Provisions on Drone Privacy, No Knives on Planes, Cell Phone Use on Planes Pass in Final Senate FAA Reauthorization Bill

Senate misses opportunity to vote on Markey pro-consumer amendment to combat unfair airline fees

Washington (April 19, 2016) – The United States Senate today passed legislation that would authorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) 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 had filed an amendment to the legislation to authorize the DOT to prohibit airlines from charging unreasonable cancellation, change, and baggage fees and other fees. Unfortunately, leadership did not allow a vote on the amendment. The amendment mirrored the bill Senators Markey and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) introduced last month, 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. Senator Markey had offered the amendment in March during the FAA reauthorization markup in the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, and the amendment received a vote of 12-12.

“We are taking important steps in this legislation to enact 21st century rules of the sky, including promoting transparency of drone operations,” said Senator Markey, a member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. “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. But passage of this legislation was a missed opportunity to reign in excessive airline cancellation, change, and baggage fees with a vote on my amendment. I will continue to work with my colleagues to get passengers the relief they need from these bloated and unfair fees.”

The following Markey provisions were included in the FAA reauthorization legislation that passed the Senate today:


One Markey provision enhances 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 Markey provisions to increase drone privacy protections include: ensuring that the commercial and government database is easily searchable and prominently displayed on the FAA website; ensuring that the database is publiclly-available through September 30, 2017; allowing Americans to find the location, purpose of flight, and technical capabilities, such as cameras or license plate readers, of government drones in the online database; requiring privacy research at drone test sites; and improving the data minimization requirements in the final bill.


Another Senator Markey-authored provision prohibits the TSA from allowing passengers to carry small, non-locking knives through screening checkpoints or on board passenger aircraft. While another Senator Markey provision gives the DOT 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 Act ensures standards for informing the public about the location, timing and ownership of unmanned aerial vehicles.