Cantwell-led Landmark Bipartisan FAA Reauthorization Act Heads to President’s Desk

May 15, 2024

After months of leading negotiations, Cantwell shepherded the bill through Senate passage last week

Legislation includes key consumer protections, enhances safety oversight, addresses air traffic controller shortage, and boosts aerospace innovation

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the bipartisan Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2024 by a vote of 387-26. As chief architect and lead negotiator of the landmark legislation, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, applauded today’s final passage after championing the bill through the Senate last week. The bill now goes to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law.

“This bill delivers big wins to Americans. Consumers get hassle-free refunds and the guaranteed family seating they've been asking for. Local economies get a boost from expanding airports and airport capacity – every dollar invested in aviation infrastructure creates $2.50 in economic growth. Flying gets safer thanks to more inspectors and advanced near-miss technology. We're going to make sure every tower has more air traffic controllers and our pilots are going to get better training. I’m glad that this bill will give a big boost to our economy and I’m looking forward to President Biden signing it,” said Sen. Cantwell.

Following massive flight disruptions, runway incursions, close calls and a ground stop of the National Airspace System, the FAA bill makes massive investments in our nation’s aviation system and technology to strengthen safety, reliability and resiliency. As the airspace becomes more congested and introduces new entrants, the bill invests in much-needed technology upgrades to ensure the safety of the flying public. With passengers logging record numbers of complaints, this bill guarantees refunds and triples fines for consumer violations. On top of other challenges, the aviation workforce has faced staffing shortages and challenges in recruiting and retaining skilled workers. The FAA bill makes investments to grow and train our valuable aviation workforce. The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2024 will reauthorize the agency for the next five years and provide new guidance and standards for the agency, airlines, manufacturers and the aviation workforce.

The legislation includes top Cantwell priorities, including enhancing safety oversight, strengthening workforce development, boosting next-generation aviation innovation and codifying consumer protections.


The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2024

Authorizes more than $105 billion in appropriations for the Federal Aviation Administration for fiscal years 2024 through 2028:

  • $66.7 billion for FAA operations to fund key safety programs, from aircraft certification reform to air carrier oversight, and enable hiring, training and retention of safety-critical staff like air traffic controllers and engineers.
  • $17.8 billion for FAA facilities and equipment to fund modernization of key technologies and systems to ensure the resilience and development of the world’s most complex airspace system.
  • $19.35 billion for FAA airport infrastructure improvement grants to support more than 3,300 airports nationwide in meeting increasing demand and integration of emerging technologies. 
  • $1.59 billion for FAA research, engineering and development to help America keep competitive in the global race for innovative and sustainable aerospace technology.

Authorizes $738 million in appropriations for the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) for fiscal years 2024 through 2028.


Highlights in this historic bipartisan bill:

  • Modernizes America’s Airport Infrastructure: On the heels of $25 billion in airport funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the FAA bill further boosts airport funding to a record $4 billion per year to rebuild our airports and propel our local economies.
  • Turbocharges Funding for Small Community Air Service: The bill strengthens the Essential Air Service (EAS) program and increases funding by more than 111% per year and doubles funding for the Small Community Air Service program so small and rural communities can remain connected and thrive. Scheduled air service is a critical economic driver and the EAS program benefits approximately 60 communities in Alaska and 115 communities in the lower 48 states.
  • Sets Clear Right to Refunds: For the first time, passengers will have the statutory right to a hassle-free refund when an airline cancels or significantly delays a flight. It prohibits fees for family seating and ensures passengers have 24/7 access to customer service.
  • Reduces Runway “Close Calls”: This bill requires FAA to further deploy airport surface situational awareness technologies – technology such as Airport Surface Detection Equipment (ASDE-X) – that track runway aircraft and vehicle movements to prevent collisions.
  • Mandates 25-Hour Cockpit Voice Recording Technologies: The bill requires commercial airplanes, including those newly manufactured, to be equipped with 25-hour cockpit voice recording devices to preserve critical data and inform future safety reforms consistent with NTSB recommendations. Currently, commercial airplane cockpit voice recording devices only record for two hours – which is part of the reason why the Alaska Flight 1282 cockpit voice recording was lost. 
  • Addresses Air Traffic Controller Shortages: With a shortage of approximately 3,000 air traffic controllers nationwide, the bill requires that FAA implement improved staffing standards developed with the labor workforce to close staffing gaps. The bill also requires FAA to set maximum hiring targets to increase air traffic controller staffing.
  • Boosts Hiring of FAA Aviation Safety Inspectors: The bill requires FAA to update its aviation safety inspector staffing model for a more accurate assessment of the number needed to perform safety oversight, and to use it to boost hiring of manufacturing safety inspectors, engineers and technical specialists per year.
  • Grows Veteran Pilot Pool: The bill establishes a competitive grant program at DOT to enable eligible flight training schools to recruit and train veterans to become commercial pilots and certified flight instructors.
  • Supports Women in Aviation: Currently, less than 10% of licensed pilots are women and less than 3% are airline captains. The bill establishes a new Women in Aviation Advisory Committee at DOT to focus on bringing more women into aviation careers and the entire industry.
  • Expands Research on Cutting-Edge Materials: The bill ensures the continued operation of the FAA’s Joint Centers of Excellence for Advanced Materials, co-led by the University of Washington and Wichita State University, and expands its research into composites, thermoplastics, carbon fiber polymers, and additive manufacturing to make aircraft lighter and more fuel efficient. To improve aircraft accessibility for individuals with disabilities, the bill expands the Center’s research focus into commercial aircraft crash worthiness and passenger safety, including materials to facilitate safe wheelchair restraint systems aboard aircraft.
  • Improves Accessibility: The bill requires the FAA to study aircraft evacuation and form an expert panel to evaluate gaps in current aircraft evacuation standards and procedures and make recommendations. The FAA must initiate a rulemaking on recommendations the FAA Administrator deems appropriate. The bill requires training for airline personnel on safely storing wheelchairs and scooters to avoid leaving flyers with disabilities with damaged or broken mobile assistance.

Read more about what’s in the legislation here.


Leading up to its passage, America’s aviation community, including pilots, flight attendants, air traffic controllers, aerospace workers, airports, manufacturers and more voiced their support for the bipartisan legislation. Read why here.

Last week, Sen. Cantwell spoke on the floor following the final Senate vote. A transcript of her remarks is available here, video here, and audio here.

Sen. Cantwell introduced the Senate FAA Reauthorization bill on June 12, 2023, and the Committee passed the legislation with bipartisan support on February 8, 2024. The Committee held eight hearings to inform the bill’s drafting, including: Integrating new entrants into the National Airspace System on September 28, 2022, strengthening airline operations and consumer protections following the Southwest and holiday cancellations on February 9, 2023, modernizing the FAA’s NOTAM system following failures on February 15, 2023, overseeing aviation safety and the Aircraft Certification, Safety, and Accountability Act on March 8, 2023, strengthening the aviation workforce on March 16, 2023, enhancing consumer protections and connectivity in air transportation on March 23, 2023 and advancing the next generation aviation technologies on March 29, 2023, and addressing close calls to improve aviation safety on November 9, 2023.