Congressman: ‘Insufficient oversight’ by FAA at root of aviation issues

(NewsNation) — Congress on Tuesday started considering aviation legislation after recent close calls involving airline and cargo jets.

Last month at New York’s JFK Airport, an American Airlines plane taxied across a runway that was in use for takeoff by a Delta Airlines jet. Also, last weekend in Austin, Texas, air traffic controllers cleared a FedEx cargo plane to land on a runway that a Southwest Airlines jet was supposed to be taking off from at the time. In both instances, quick thinking from pilots and air traffic controllers averted disaster.

Rep. John Garamendi. D-Calif., serves on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He says “insufficient oversight” by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is at the root of the problem.

“What’s going on is insufficient oversight by the FAA. We really need a strong FAA. They don’t have the money to do their job. They’re disorganized,” Garamendi said in an interview with NewsNation host Leland Vittert.

He says it’s time for Congress to step up to the plate.

“Congress has not held the airlines and the FAA to proper standards. This is a major oversight. We have to review what’s going on. We’ve got to hold these guys responsible (…) There’s a whole set of issues here,” Garamendi said.

Garamendi believes part of the issues trace back to a lack of funding.

“We don’t adequately fund the FAA. That money presumably comes in from the airline industry and then it disappears in the Department of Treasury. So we’ve got a whole set of problems,” he said.

It’s why he wants to rewrite the FAA this year with other members of Congress. The House Transportation Committee is working on legislation to reauthorize the FAA by Sept. 30.

“Hopefully, we’ll do it right and we do it with a system in which we can have some assurances we’re not going to have a real problem,” Garamendi said.

Lawmakers also discussed issues with the FAA’s technology, noting its breakdown last month that snarled U.S. air travel.

Meanwhile, consumer groups are advocating for a number of passenger-friendly proposals like airlines being required to place passengers whose flights are canceled on another flight, increase passenger expense reimbursements in the event of cancellations or delays, allow parents and their children to sit with each other without paying seat-assignment fees, and including a seat, carry-on bag, personal item, boarding pass and water in the price of all airline tickets.

In the State of the Union address Tuesday evening, President Joe Biden said his administration is going after “junk fees” or hidden surcharges with his Junk Fee Prevention Act.

“Americans are tired of being played for suckers,” Biden said, speaking to Congress. “Pass the Junk Fee Prevention Act so companies stop ripping us off.”

Per his address, part of Biden’s plan includes making airlines show customers the full ticket price upfront, issue refunds if a flight is canceled or delayed and stop charging families fees to sit together.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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