October 03, 2018

Congress Passes Hirono Measures to Support Hawaii’s Aviation Workforce and Rural Air Service

FAA Reauthorization Bill Includes Relief for Disaster-Impacted Communities, Expanded Worker Protections, Strong Oversight of Airlines Serving Kalaupapa

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) voted today for the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, which passed the Senate 93-6.

The bill provides nearly $1.7 billion in disaster relief funds, and includes provisions authored by Senator Hirono which help ensure reliable air service to Kalaupapa, Molokai; close loopholes that leave veterans working for the FAA and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) without full veterans’ preference protections; set minimum rest periods for flight attendants equal to pilots; and make permanent the TSA’s policy of extending automatic PreCheck eligibility to active-duty service members, National Guard, and Reserve members, including their accompanying children.

“Hawaii families depend on air travel, and will benefit from this update to federal laws governing the FAA,” Senator Hirono said. “In addition to updates to important air travel regulations, this bill sets aside $1.7 billion to help communities across our country, including in Hawaii, recover from natural disasters. I’m proud to have worked with my colleagues on a bipartisan basis to secure this funding, bolster oversight to ensure air service to Kalaupapa meets the needs of the community, protect the rights of the Hawaii veterans working at the FAA and TSA, set 10 hour minimum rest periods for flight attendants, and continue TSA PreCheck benefits for the men and women serving in our Armed Forces.”

Senator Hirono’s measures in the FAA Reauthorization Act follow her efforts to hold the Department of Transportation accountable for reliable air service to Kalauapapa, provide equitable rest periods for flight attendants, introduction of her bipartisan FAA Veterans’ Preference Protection Act last year, and her longstanding support for TSA PreCheck and other trusted traveler programs.

“Air transportation made possible by the Essential Air Service program is Kalaupapa's lifeline to the outside world – not only for us residents who need to travel for medical needs and to conduct personal business in Honolulu, but also to see our families and to allow family members and friends to visit us and pay respects to the graves of their relatives who died here,” Clarence “Boogie” Kahilihiwa, President of Ka Ohana O Kalaupapa said. “We appreciate Senator Hirono’s longstanding leadership in support of Kalaupapa and for passing her legislation to strengthen oversight over the Essential Air Service program to ensure air service quality and community satisfaction.”

“The VFW Department of Hawaii thanks Senator Hirono for her leadership in fixing a longstanding inequity for veterans working at the FAA and TSA,” Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Department of Hawaii Commander Maria B. Vaa-Igafo said. “Passage of this legislation is necessary to ensure FAA and TSA veteran employees in Hawaii, American Samoa, and across the country have the same ability to address violations of their veterans’ preference rights in the hiring, selection, and promotion process that their counterparts in other federal agencies have.”

“Flight Attendants are cheering the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 that includes a provision to combat Flight Attendant fatigue by increasing minimum rest from 8 hours to 10 hours,” Sara Nelson, President of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA said. “Senator Mazie Hirono was the first to introduce this language when she served in the House of Representatives and she kept up the fight in the Senate for our safety, health, and equality. We thank Senator Hirono for her relentless efforts to close this safety loophole and harmonize minimum rest with our counterparts in the flight deck.”

The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 would benefit Hawaii by:

  • Extending Federal Airport Infrastructure Funding: Authorizes over $3 billion per year through 2023 for the Airport Improvement Program (AIP). For Fiscal Year 2018, Hawaii received more than $28 million in AIP funding, which goes toward improving airport runways and other critical infrastructure.
  • Continued Support For Essential Air Service at Kalaupapa, Waimea and Hana Airports: Maintains current funding levels for the Essential Air Service Program which currently ensures minimum standards for reliable air service at Kalaupapa, Waimea, and Hana airports. A provision authored by Sen. Hirono requires the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Inspector General to review the agency’s oversight over unsubsidized carriers to ensure air service quality and community satisfaction.
  • Providing Over $1 Billion In Disaster Relief For Hawaii and Other Affected States: The bill provides $1.68 billion for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant Disaster Relief program for disaster-affected states like Hawaii to assist with infrastructure, housing, and economic recovery.
  • Expanded Protections For Hawaii’s Aviation Workforce: The bill includes a provision pushed by Sen. Hirono to increase minimum rest periods from 8 to 10 hours for Hawaii’s 3,500 flight attendants so that they are equal to pilots. Also included is Sen. Hirono’s bipartisan FAA Veterans’ Preference Protection Act which ensures all veterans’ preference laws apply to the FAA and TSA which employ around 300 veterans in Hawaii. To address sexual misconduct, the bill establishes national task force to review air carriers’ responses to allegations and instances of sexual misconduct, allegations, and increases the civil penalty for interfering with cabin or flight crew. 
  • Consumer Protections For Travelers: Prohibits involuntary removal of passengers who have already boarded and directs the FAA to set minimum leg room, width and length requirements for passenger seats in commercial flights.
  • Simplifying Travel For Military Families: Codifies TSA’s policy of extending automatic PreCheck eligibility to active military, National Guard and Reserve members and accompanying children aged 12 and under. Approximately 100,000 military personnel and dependents reside in Hawaii according to the 2017 State of Hawaii Data Book.

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