Senate Approves Bill to Reauthorize F.A.A. and Improve Air Travel

The Senate on Thursday passed legislation to reauthorize federal aviation programs for the next five years and put in place new safety measures and consumer protections for passengers, at a moment of intense uncertainty and disruption in the air travel system.

The bill, which still must win final approval in the House before becoming law, would provide more than $105 billion to the Federal Aviation Administration and another $738 million to the National Transportation Safety Board for airport modernization, technology programs and safety. It would also bolster the hiring and training of air traffic controllers, codify airlines’ refund obligations to passengers, ensure fee-free family seating and strengthen protections for passengers with disabilities.

“Aviation safety has been front of mind for millions of Americans recently, and this F.A.A. bill is the best thing Congress can do to give Americans the peace of mind they deserve,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, said on the Senate floor on Thursday evening.

It passed in an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 88 to 4, just one day before the current law is scheduled to lapse. The Senate also unanimously approved a short-term extension to allow time for the House to take up and clear the longer-term package next week, a step that would send it to President Biden.

The legislation is a bipartisan compromise negotiated over months by the Senate and House committees with jurisdiction over the F.A.A., after Congress authorized several short-term extensions of the agency when lawmakers failed to meet earlier deadlines. The House passed its version of the bill almost a year ago in a lopsided vote of 351 to 69.

Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington, chairwoman of the Commerce Committee, celebrated the bill’s provisions on consumer protections, aviation safety, air traffic controllers, airport infrastructure and work force development on the floor after passage.

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