The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation has passed the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2009, which includes passenger bill of rights provisions and language that will accelerate the implementation of a next-generation traffic control system.

The legislation must now go before the full Senate, and, if passed, must then be reconciled with legislation passed by the House of Representatives in May.

The passenger bill of rights provisions includes a requirement that passengers be allowed to deplane if their plane has been on the tarmac for three hours and the pilot determines it is safe to do so. Under the legislation, if a plane is sitting on the tarmac, airlines will also be required to provide food, potable water, working restrooms, and reasonable cabin temperature and ventilation.

The next-generation traffic control system is satellite-based and is designed to replace the current ground-based radar system. “The Senate’s legislation will move us closer to ensuring the long-term stability and safety of our aviation system,” said National Business Travel Association President and CEO Kevin Maguire, in a statement lauding the legislation’s passage.

The language in the Senate bill related to passenger bill of rights provisions is much more specific than that of the House bill, which only requires that airlines and airports develop emergency contingency plans to take care of passengers who are involved in long onboard tarmac delays, including plans on deplaning after a lengthy delay.

“NBTA continues to remain concerned over language in the legislation related to deplanement during extended tarmac delays and is hopeful the issue will be resolved before final passage,” said Maguire.