Austin/ Politics & Govt
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Published on May 29, 2024
Senator Ted Cruz Champions New $105 Billion FAA Bill to Ramp Up Air Safety, Tech Upgrades in Austin VisitSource: U.S. Senate Photographic Studio, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Aiming to bolster aviation safety after several close calls at airports, including a near-miss in Austin earlier this year, Senator Ted Cruz visited Austin-Bergstrom International Airport to underscore the significance of the freshly-minted Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act. The bipartisan bill, passing with a whopping $105 billion price tag, seeks to enforce crucial safety measures such as adding more safety inspectors and implementing new collision-avoidance technology at airports across the nation.

In February, a FedEx cargo plane and a Southwest Airlines flight came within a hair's breadth of disaster, prompting swift legislative action. "One of the things causing this is the shortage in air traffic controllers, so [the bipartisan act] will invest in hiring more air traffic controllers," Cruz detailed in a statement obtained by KXAN. He also highlighted that Austin Bergstrom didn't possess the necessary runway tech to prevent near collisions but, the new bill aims to change that scenario.

Not just focusing on safety, the bill intends to iron out kinks bothering airline passengers. It includes dictates banning exorbitant fees for families seeking to sit together, and it lays down the hammer requiring airlines to proffer automatic refunds for significantly delayed or outright canceled flights, despite ongoing lawsuits from airlines aiming to block such rules, as KXAN reported.

At the same press conference, Cruz expounded on the financial boon this act will represent for AUS, "This bill focuses on increasing competition and, also through competition, on lowering prices so consumers can afford to travel better," while Sam Haynes, a spokesperson for Austin-Bergstrom, indicated the windfall could also finance expansion projects. She stressed, "We can use that funding on expansion projects. So for us, this is $4 billion on the table, up for grabs for us, for other airports that have programs and projects," according to KVUE. Moreover, the legislation will grant about $730 million to the National Transportation Safety Board for improved investigative efforts and has updated the rules for black boxes on commercial flights, requiring them to store 25 hours of voice recordings — a significant jump from the mere two hours previously mandated.

This funding surge and the additional safety measures could significantly improve the aviation experience for both crew and passengers. Hayes pointed out the broader consumer benefits, "This bill provides sweeping changes, very positive changes to air travel across the board. And that does include consumer protections for travelers who are flying with families, travelers who need refunds due to airline issues."