Nolan Amendment to Boost Airline Passenger Rights Passes House
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) The 5-year Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill (H.R.4), $4.35 billion per year to the FAA for infrastructure and technology improvements, passed today by the House included two bipartisan amendments from U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan. The first, a “one pager” consumer bill of rights, requires airlines to provide a simple, one page explanation of compensation when flights are cancelled or delayed, passengers are denied boarding due to overbooking, or bags are lost. Nolan noted that his amendment provides a long overdue fix to make airline travel a little easier for everyone.
Nolan’s second provision preserves full funding ($6 million) for the Small Community Air Service Development program, which was initially cut by $4.8 million. This program provides grant subsidies for airports in smaller rural communities looking to create new air service, or expand current air service in places where access to the national air transportation system is limited. For example, Duluth International Airport is currently seeking support from the program to begin flights to Phoenix Mesa Airport, a connection that should benefit commerce and tourism for both cities.
At Nolan’s urging, the FAA reauthorization bill also contains funding for Essential Air Services (EAS), a special program designed to support regional airports such as Hibbing, Brainerd, Bemidji and International Falls that promote commerce, tourism, business development and good paying local jobs. Nolan helped lead the charge to strike down an amendment that would have eliminated the EAS program all together.
Nolan, a Member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, noted that “This airline consumer bill of rights measure, requiring each airline to provide a simple, one page explanation of the rights for passengers when problems occur, is simple common sense and similar to what the European Union has required from airlines for years.”
Nolan added, “Airline passengers pay good hard earned money to get from one place to another and they deserve to know what their rights are when problems transpire.”
This amendment arose from a hearing Nolan requested last spring to investigate mounting consumer complaints against the airlines. During the hearing, consumer representatives noted that many major airlines bury their consumer protection policies amidst 37,000 pages of online fine print that gives people no rights and would require a team of Philadelphia lawyers to translate.
Nolan added, “I want to compliment the Chairman of our Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Congressman Bill Schuster of Pennsylvania and the Ranking Member, Congressman Peter DeFazio for allowing Committee to operate in such an open and bipartisan way. Our consideration of the FAA bill included more than 116 separate amendments, each one debated and given an up or down vote. I am pleased to see this critical and necessary legislation pass the House, where we were able to improve it before it goes to the Senate.”