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Hirono: Making our skies safer

From the office of Rep. Mazie Hirono:

This week President Obama signed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Modernization and Reform Act into law, helping us move forward on investments to make our skies safer and create jobs, while improving our airports and helping our communities.

There are several pieces of good news for Hawaii in this law. The Essential Air Service program, which ensures air travel to the residents of Kalaupapa and rural communities across the country, was preserved.

This law also includes an amendment I authored that will provide an estimated $6 million more a year to help fix and modernize some of Hawaii’s busiest airports. This investment is coming from the Airport Improvement Program, which helps pay for capital improvement projects.

The new FAA law also establishes a new federal hotline for passengers to report and investigate air travel complaints and requires airlines to have an emergency contingency plan in the event of serious delays.

For further information on the Aviation Safety Hotline, visit: www.faa.gov/contact/safety_hotline/

While there are a lot of good things in this law, it is not perfect. I am especially concerned about provisions that undermine the rights of airline and railroad workers. We will have to work hard to restore these rights in the future.

Fighting for our Flight Crews

As we know, flights to and from Hawaii are long. We fly over vast stretches of ocean and cross several time zones. The passengers can sleep — or try to — but the flight crew must always remain on duty and alert.

As a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I’ve heard stories from flight attendants who work hard to make sure every flight is safe and smooth — even when they’re extremely fatigued.

As one flight attendant wrote in her safety report filed with NASA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System: “I am filing this report because I was so tired I don’t know if I made any mistakes. I know the trip was legal, but it wasn’t humane.” Another reports that she had to pinch herself just to stay awake.

No one should ever be so exhausted that they must pinch themselves to stay awake at work. That type of environment is bad for workers and potentially a danger for the people depending on them.

Since 9/11, the security responsibilities of flight attendants have increased, and fatigue makes it much more difficult to be vigilant.

That’s why I’ve introduced the Airline First Responder Workplace Fairness Act. This bipartisan bill sets up a process to help strengthen workplace protections for flight attendants and enhance the safety of travelers.

This bill will bring together flight attendants, health and safety experts, and airlines to work together to develop common-sense policies to prevent flight attendant fatigue — the same kinds of policies that are now required for pilots.

To read more on the Airline First Responder Workplace Fairness Act, visit: http://hirono.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=281195

Passenger Protection Resources

TSA PreCheck, a passenger pre-screening initiative, has been expanded to airports across the country including Honolulu International Airport. TSA PreCheck provides expedited screening for travelers who volunteer information about themselves prior to flying.

New consumer regulations went into effect last month that include listing the mandatory taxes and fees in published airfares, requiring airlines to refund baggage fees if bags are lost, and increased compensation for passengers bumped from oversold flights.

These additional consumer protections build on those announced by the Department of Transportation in August, which require airlines to refund baggage fees if bags are lost and provide increased compensation to passengers bumped from oversold flights.

For a full list of these new passenger protections, visit: www.tsa.gov/press/releases/2012/0208.shtm

As always, please stay in touch: visit my website www.hirono.house.gov to send an email, call my District Office at (808) 541-1986 or send me a tweet at @maziehirono.

The direct (free) numbers to call my office from the neighbor islands are:

Hawaii Island — 935-3756
Kauai & Niihau — 245-1951
Lanai — 565-7199
Maui — 242-1818
Molokai — 552-0160

Mahalo,
Mazie K. Hirono
Member of Congress
2nd District of Hawaii

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