Lipinski Adds Consumer and Environmental Protections to Aviation Bill (June 28, 2017)

During Tuesday’s House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee mark-up, Congressman Dan Lipinski (IL-3) was able to add amendments to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill which will enhance consumer protections during online ticket purchases, add clean-energy vehicles at airports, and increase transparency at the FAA.  H.R. 2997, the 21st Century AIRR Act, passed the committee with Lipinski and all others Democrats and one Republican in opposition.  A major problem with the bill is a plan to privatize the air traffic control system which would, among other issues, leave the FAA and Congress with no ability to impact noise issues around airports such as Midway and O’Hare.

“I'm pleased that I was able to add protections for consumers buying airline tickets from online travel sites, clean-energy vehicles at airports that will protect the environment, and disclosure rules that will help promote the purchase of American-made goods,” said Rep. Lipinski.  “However, I am disappointed that the airline industry worked hard to defeat my common-sense protections for passengers who face long delays that are the fault of airlines.  As families travel this holiday weekend, they should not have to worry about an airline’s failure leaving them tired, hungry, and sleepless overnight on an airport floor.”

In response to recent incidents involving airline passengers, Rep. Lipinski offered an amendment to better protect airline passengers facing long delays caused by airlines, such as an involuntary bumping or an airline computer malfunction – a breakdown that has occurred more than 30 times since 2015.  Lipinski’s amendment would have given mandatory procedures for airlines to follow to accommodate passengers on another airline's flight should their scheduled flight be delayed for reasons within the airline's control.  If the delay exceeds four hours and the airline cannot rebook the passenger on their airline, they must seek flights on another airline to get the passenger to their destination, a process called “interlining.”  A few airlines already do this, but it is not universally used by all commercial airlines and some will only do it if a passenger makes a special request.  The amendment would have also required that airlines provide food in the event of a long delay and overnight accommodations if the delay occurs between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m.  Unfortunately, the amendment was defeated in committee following heavy lobbying by the airline industry against the consumer protections. 

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee did approve an amendment by Lipinski that requires large online ticket agents to follow the same rules that are already in place for the airlines.  That language requires companies that sell airline tickets online to provide prompt refunds to passengers that are entitled to them, timely notification of schedule changes, and easily accessible information about the policies of the airline on which they have booked their ticket.

The Committee also approved an amendment from Lipinski that would aid airports in purchasing zero- emission and low-emission vehicles in order to cut down on pollution in and around airports and protect the environment. 

Another Lipinski amendment adopted by the committee helps promote the purchase of American products by increasing transparency in the FAA’s procurement policies.  Rep. Lipinski is co-chair of the Buy American Caucus and has worked tirelessly to support domestic manufacturing.  His language requires the agency to annually disclose the dollar value of products that the FAA buys from foreign companies.  He included a similar amendment that applies to the Army Corps of Engineers to the House water resources bill in 2016 that ultimately became law.