Senate Drops Airline Fee Controls in Latest FAA Bill

As travelers were enjoying a weekend getaway, the Senate revealed an updated version of the 1,200-page bill to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) at 2:52 a.m. local time Saturday.

According to, the new FAA bill did not include the original plans to dictate limits for reasonable baggage and change fees, marking a major victory for airlines in the United States.

Airlines and trade groups, such as Airlines for America, fought against regulations controlling additional fees, saying the provision would result in “government-mandated price controls.” The new bill comes after several carriers recently announced checked-bag price increases.

The government reported that revenue generated by U.S. airlines from baggage and reservation change fees rose from $5.7 billion in 2010 to $7.5 billion in 2017. Carriers do not have to report revenue from other fees to regulators.

There are several positive additions to the bill that should help travelers, including the FAA setting minimum legroom and width dimensions for passenger seats, as well as banning the involuntary removal of passengers after they’ve cleared the boarding gate.

Some of the other provisions in the bill include authorizing commercial drone delivery; banning mobile phone calls and e-cigarettes; requiring airlines to allow pregnant passengers to board earlier; and prohibiting the placement of live animals in overhead storage compartment.

Airlines for America CEO Nicholas E. Calio issued a statement on the bill:

We applaud the bipartisan, bicameral efforts in Congress, led in the House by Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and in the Senate by Chairman John Thune (R-SD) and Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-FL) and their staffs, for reaching agreement on the FAA Reauthorization Bill of 2018.

We highly encourage both the House and the Senate to move swiftly to vote—and pass—this important legislation.

The long-term reauthorization is essential for the FAA to advance projects and implement programs that advance our country’s status as the safest, most efficient aerospace system in the world.

This measure will provide long-term certainty for the millions of passengers and countless businesses that rely on access to safe, affordable travel and shipping options every day.

The legislation also will deliver the certainty that employers, manufacturers, consumers, and communities must have to continue building, investing, hiring, innovating and growing the U.S. aviation industry.

American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) CEO Zane Kerby also issued a statement on the impact the bill will have on travel agents:

We applaud the leadership of the Congressional transportation committees for listening to the views of ASTA and its members and not imposing new and unwarranted disclosure obligations on the travel advisor community in this compromise bill. These would have imposed an economic burden of close to $30 million a year on our members, ranging from reprogramming systems to training staff to ‘talk time’ and opportunity costs from lost sales. In particular, we want to thank Senator Mike Lee of Utah for his work to undo the worst of these proposals.

Further, we commend committee leaders for their inclusion of a number of pro-consumer provisions in the bill, from maintaining the Department of Transportation’s full-price advertising rule to banning in-flight voice calls to set minimum standards for seat size and legroom to prohibiting involuntary bumping of passengers who have already boarded.

As our industry’s national trade association ASTA has been actively engaging with policymakers on this legislation for the better part of three years, but this kind of successful advocacy work is a team effort. If you attended ASTA Legislative Day, if you responded to our many grassroots calls-to-action, if you contributed to ASTAPAC, or even if you supported ASTA with your membership dues, you share credit for this victory.”

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