US Senator John Thune’s Weekly Column: Making Air Travel a Little Less Stressful

thuneheadernew John_Thune,_official_portrait,_111th_CongressMaking Air Travel a Little Less Stressful
By Sen. John Thune

This won’t come as any surprise to most South Dakotans, but flying to and from rural America can be a challenging and oftentimes frustrating experience. Even on the best flying days, travelers often face fewer options at smaller airports. Add the seasonal threats of inclement weather to the mix, and all bets are off, because with many flights from South Dakota connecting through major hubs in other parts of the region, one stray storm can have a ripple effect that leads to missed or canceled flights on future legs of a trip.

Legislation I recently introduced, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2016, addresses some of the issues that disproportionately affect rural air travelers. This bipartisan legislation, which would reauthorize the FAA through the next fiscal year, takes on the important task of enhancing consumer protections, investing in our airport infrastructure across South Dakota, and makes needed reforms to advance priorities of the general aviation community.

In an increasingly interconnected world, business, commercial, and general aviation play an important role in economic development – particularly in South Dakota where wide open spaces make transportation options critical. This legislation reauthorizes the Airport Improvement Program, which provides necessary funding to airports in communities large and small across the state, and it increases funding for the Small Community Air Service Development Program, which helps airports attract commercial service.

Additionally, a number of general aviation priorities are reflected in this bill. Specifically, an important safety provision would require small towers, not currently regulated by the FAA, to be properly marked so pilots who operate at low-altitude, like agriculture-applicators, can easily spot and avoid them. The bill also adopts the Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2, which makes several reforms to the Third Class Medical Certificate process to reduce regulatory burdens for recreational pilots, while still maintaining safety.

My legislation would advance a number of provisions aimed at protecting airline passengers, ensuring they are treated fairly. For example, airlines would be required to provide consumers with information about seat availability at the time of booking, which would help families that prefer to sit together during a flight pick an option that best satisfies their needs. This bill would also require airlines to return baggage fees when items are lost or delayed, create a standard method for airlines to disclose common fees, and take steps to help improve the travel experience for passengers with disabilities, who often face unique and difficult challenges during air travel.

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, a committee I’ve chaired since the beginning of last year, will soon consider this reauthorization bill, and I’m hopeful the full Senate will pass it shortly thereafter. These important reforms are within reach, and I’m proud that we were able to build such a broad coalition of support for this bill. It’s one of many pieces of legislation our committee has worked hard to advance this Congress, and it won’t be the last.

Note: Click here for more information about the FAA Reauthorization Act and how it would benefit South Dakota.

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8 thoughts on “US Senator John Thune’s Weekly Column: Making Air Travel a Little Less Stressful

  1. What

    Most airlines try to seat family John .How about a bill where senators only serve a six year term, and go on social security when their done and no pensions.Americans would love to see a champion lead the way.While your at it you can take a couple of photo ops;sign a couple of basketballs.

    1. Anonymous

      Mr. Basketball Thune attended a few games at the Summit League tournament last week, as did Daugaard. They were both introduced by the arena announcer and both received lukewarm receptions.

    1. Anonymous

      Why don’t you try a new tag line-“Photo Op” got old a long time ago. If you had a job, What, you’d realize that it’s okay to go out and unwind once in a while at a ball game.

  2. Hmmm

    Of greater value would be to reconsider the requirement of co pilots needing 1500 hours of training rather than 250. While I agree 250 was too low, going to a 1500 requirement has only contributed to the pilot shortage which has been devastating to smaller communities which depend on regional air carriers. None of the rest matters if there aren’t enough qualified pilots to fly the planes.

    1. Noddy Holder

      Congress has had 3 years to work on that debacle, and they have sat on their hands. Instead, we get to see feel-good legislation like this piece that just throws more Federal money at subsidizing airlines to fly where the public doesn’t really support or need them (like Watertown, just 90 minutes from Sioux Falls), or nebulous stuff like airport improvements. Look what a fine job President Obama’s ARRA did to give Pierre that ridiculous building that is virtually empty.

      1. Anonymous

        Oh come on, the fine folks out in Buffalo could use an airline or two. To meet their worldly travel needs.