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Lawmakers Want To Change Obama Rule on Airlines Advertising Full Airfare Prices

In a massive bill covering the Federal Aviation Administration, lawmakers are considering repealing a rule from the Obama administration that requires airlines to show the full airfare prices of a ticket upfront in advertising, as well as adjusting training requirements for airline pilots, among other changes. As the Associated Press reported Monday, a 773-page proposal to reauthorize FAA programs for the next five years was released by the House Transportation Committee Friday.

D.C. Delegate Rick Larsen called the plan a compromise, but he acknowledged that many details would need to be worked out when committees begin reviewing the bill next week.

Critics have pointed to the FAA’s lack of air traffic controllers, outdated technology, and near-misses between planes as reasons for their disapproval. There is a new acting administrator at the agency, and they have no background in aviation. Since its previous leader resigned midway through his term, the organization has been without a Senate-confirmed head for over a year.

The “base airfare prices,” which do not include taxes and fees, can be advertised by airlines under a provision of the House bill so long as there is a link to the total price or other disclosure. Consumer advocates are upset with the House for weakening a rule from the Obama administration that airlines have fought to kill for years.

“These protections were hard fought and took years to enact,” William McGee, an aviation expert at the American Economic Liberties Project, told AP. “Any consumer can tell you that online airline bookings are confusing enough. The last thing we need is to roll back existing protection that provides effective transparency.”

Minimum Flying Time for Commercial Pilot Certification

The chairmen of the House committees have also proposed reducing the minimum flying time required for commercial pilot certification. The current requirement of 1,500 hours of training would remain the same under the proposed legislation, but 250 of those hours could be completed in simulators rather than actually flying an airplane.

There are already exemptions that allow pilots in the military and graduates of some aviation schools to qualify with fewer hours than the 1,500-hour rule, but this hasn’t stopped airlines, especially smaller ones that operate regional flights, from fighting it. Fifty people were killed in a crash in 2009, prompting the rule’s implementation.

According to United Airlines’ Air Line Pilots Association head Garth Thompson, it would be “a horrible idea” to weaken the rule.

“That rule, like so many federal aviation regulations, is written in blood, literally,” Thompson told AP. “That regulation came about because of the Colgan Air crash and other crashes that involved experience issues.” When asked about changes in airfare advertising and pilot training, Larsen said, “It’s something we can live with.”

Provisions in the bill seek to enhance airport infrastructure and increase the availability of environmentally friendly aviation fuel. Better cockpit voice recorders and, for the first time, cockpit video recorders would have to be installed on commercial aircraft to aid in accident investigations. The pilot community is strongly opposed to the cameras.

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