WASHINGTON — Plans to invest in the Federal Aviation Administration have leaders optimistic that the air travel industry is about to get some much-needed updates.
The hope is that will mean a smoother experience for passengers after several seasons of messy travel troubles.
As we fly through the summer travel season, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg says he’s been encouraged by how things are going.
“The rate of cancellations and delays is dramatically lower than it was a year ago. Matter of fact lower than the 10-year average,” Buttigieg said.
He believes that’s because of the pressure his department has put on airlines to take better care of passengers.
“A lot of progress has been made. There’s still a long way to go,” Buttigieg said.
U.S. Travel Association CEO Geoff Freeman agrees that the industry still needs improvements.
“We face far too many delays and cancellations. And most of it comes back to the lack of investment from Washington in this system for year after year after year,” Freeman said.
Right now, Congress is working on a bill to fund the Federal Aviation Administration for the next five years.
The House passed it before leaving for their August recess, but the Senate didn’t.
“They left town before getting it done. There’s no excuse for that. We need to give travelers the confidence that they deserve that they can have a reliable air travel system,” Freeman said.
Freeman says he thinks the bill is promising. Specifically, he points to how it would boost air traffic controller staffing, give more funding to airports, and update travel technology.
“We need these investments yesterday. We need to get started right away,” Freeman said.
He says the sooner Congress acts, the sooner travelers will see the benefits.
“It’s not going to change overnight, and it’s not going to change until people in Washington take everything more seriously,” Freeman said.
Sec. Buttigieg is also encouraging lawmakers to pass the bill quickly.
“We do think it will make a big difference that you’ll feel, whether you notice it or not, in the form of a smoother experience as a passenger,” Buttigieg said.
Senate leaders say they plan to take up the bill as soon as they return from recess in September.