Congress has voted to extend the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) tax authority for six months, which was initially required to be complete by September 30. The extension, formally titled the Disaster Tax Relief and Airport and Airway Extension Act of 2017 (H.R. 3823), funds FAA operations at its current funding level until March 31, 2018, includes hurricane relief funds and gives Congress additional time to come to an agreement on the final FAA reauthorization bill.
As anticipated, the extension did not include any of the disability provisions set out in the full bill, but the possibility of these provisions being included in the full reauthorization in March remains, and we will continue to call on all advocates to ensure that our collective voice is heard in Congress about the importance of these provisions.
Both the House of the Representatives and the Senate drafted their own versions of the Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) FAA Reauthorization bill and both included measures that improve air travel for disabled passengers.
In the House, the bill would (1) create an advisory committee with diverse stakeholders to investigate and report on the needs of disabled passengers, (2) identify best practice standards in airport accessibility and examine training policies regarding assistance for disabled air travelers, and (3) undertake a study on use of in-cabin wheelchair restraint systems.
Included in the Senate bill are measures that would (1) identify best practice standards in airport accessibility, (2) undertake a study on use of in-cabin wheelchair restraint systems, (3) create an advisory committee with diverse stakeholders to investigate and report on the needs of disabled passengers, and (4) create transparency in terms of mishandled baggage and wheelchairs in aircraft cargo compartments for disabled passengers.
MDA has come out in support of both bills and will continue to advocate for the inclusion of these measures in the final bill.
Accessible air travel has been a top policy priority for MDA over the last few years; for example, MDA surveyed its community at the end of 2016 on experiences with air travel and received more than 2,000 responses. You can view the results here. Additionally, MDA has been working with federal agencies, industry, and other advocacy and disability rights organizations to help improve access to air travel for MDA families. Most recently, MDA, Airlines for America, Southwest and Alaska Airlines teamed up to hold a webinar on how the airline industry is working hard to improve air travel for disabled passengers.
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