Congressman Cohen Hails Passage of FAA Reauthorization
WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), a senior member of the House Aviation Subcommittee, hailed passage of the Seat Egress in Air Travel (SEAT) Act, the Planes Ensuring Total Safety (PETS) Act and three other measures he introduced that were made a part of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill that passed the House on a vote of 398 to 23 and is expected to be considered in the Senate soon. See his remarks on the House floor here.
The SEAT Act provision requires the FAA to establish minimum seat size and distances between rows of seats to ensure the safety of the flying public. Commercial airplanes are required to be capable of emergency evacuation within 90-seconds.
Congressman Cohen first introduced the bipartisan SEAT Act in 2016 with Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Illinois). He and Rep. Kinzinger reintroduced the bill in 2017, and was joined by Senators Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), Schumer (D-New York), Markey (D-Massachusetts), Menendez (D-New Jersey) and Feinstein (D-California). Congressman Cohen offered the legislation as an amendment during the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s consideration of FAA reauthorization legislation last year. The amendment was adopted by voice vote, prior to full House passage in April.
The FAA reauthorization bill passed Wednesday also includes the Congressman’s bipartisan, bicameral PETS Act (H.R. 5315), which Congressman Cohen introduced with Rep. Daniel Donovan (R-New York) and Senators John Kennedy (R-Louisiana) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nevada), directing the FAA to issue regulations to prohibit the storage of live animals in the overhead compartments of airplanes to prevent incidents like the death of Kokito, a French bulldog that died on a United Airlines flight after being stored in an overhead compartment earlier this year.
The consensus FAA package also includes a measure Congressman Cohen offered in conjunction with Representative Rodney Davis (R-Illinois) and Representative Sam Graves (R-Missouri), based on H.R. 2024, to ensure that discriminatory taxes on certain services at airports be spent on airport improvements, not as revenue for other purposes. This measure is good for consumers and good for our airports. This effort has been endorsed by the National Consumers League and the National Urban League.
It also includes the bipartisan measure S. 1971, the Pilots Record Improvement Enhancement Act, that the Congressman introduced as an amendment with Rep. Mark Woodall (R-Georgia) and Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois) and David Perdue (R-Georgia) to the FAA reauthorization, ensuring that the FAA has access to Department of Motor Vehicles records to ensure that pilots who have had their driving privileges suspended or revoked for such offenses as drunken driving are not permitted to pilot planes.
The bill also includes Representative Cohen’s amendment to give the public a place at the table and requires that the FAA follow established rulemaking processes in the agency’s effort to implement one-engine inoperative standards that would break over 70 years of precedent. Such changes without public input could severely endanger economic growth and the construction of needed cellular towers, wind turbines, and important infrastructure.
Congressman Cohen said:
“I am proud that several measures I offered are in this bill. Consumers and their safety are too often overlooked in these bills. Safety should be our primary concern. Tightly cramped seating on aircraft is a safety issue, and will now be taken seriously. The SEAT Act will ensure that shrinking seats on airplanes are evaluated in the interest of the safety of the flying public. Some of the other amendments I offered would ensure taxes on certain services at airports are spent on airport improvements only, prospective pilots’ driving records are properly and swiftly reviewed and that beloved pets will not be endangered by being improperly placed in airless overhead bins on planes. I commend my colleagues for recognizing the need for these measures and including them in the FAA reauthorization package.
“However, I was disappointed that the bipartisan, bicameral Fair Fees amendment I offered during House consideration of the FAA reauthorization legislation that was included in the Senate Committee-passed FAA reauthorization bill, was struck from the bill we considered. Americans continue to be burdened with ever increasing baggage and cancellation fees while airlines making record-breaking profits continue to pad their bottom lines.”
The Fair fees provision, sponsored by Representative Cohen, Representative Walter Jones (R-North Carolina) and Senators Edward Markey (D-Massachusetts) and Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi) would have protected consumers from unreasonable fees by having the FAA assess whether airline fees for changed or cancelled flights, baggage or other services are reasonable and proportional to the cost of the services provided. The bipartisan, bicameral quartet wrote to 11 airlines after United Airlines and Jet Blue raised baggage fees earlier this month. American Airlines and Delta have since followed suit.
The five-year reauthorization of FAA programs came after five extensions prior to Sunday’s September 30 deadline. Key House and Senate negotiators reached an agreement last Friday evening and released the text of H.R. 302, a consensus bill that includes nearly $1.7 billion in federal disaster relief for victims of Hurricane Florence.