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U.S. House proposal would prohibit family seating fees

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By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -A U.S. House committee will take up a aviation bill next week that would bar airlines from charging family seating fees but would not set minimum seat size requirements or impose new rules to compensate delays.

The leaders of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee unveiled a nearly 800-page proposal on Friday to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), aviation safety and infrastructure programs for the next five years.

The Senate Commerce Committee is set to take up its version as early as next week, while the House committee plans to vote on amendments on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Biden administration wants Congress to mandate airlines to pay cash compensation for delays of three hours or more when carriers are responsible, and provide new requirements for transparency over fees such as for baggage when booking tickets.

The bill released on Friday does not include those consumer proposals but does respond to a Biden administration call in February to ban family seating fees for airlines that assign seats ahead of time.

“Baggage fees are bad enough – airlines can’t treat your child like a piece of baggage,” President Joe Biden said in February.

After a series of close call incidents raised questions about the safety of U.S. aviation this year, the House bill would require the FAA to establish the Runway Safety Council to develop strategies to address safety risks of ground operations at airports.

The House proposal would mandate by 2030 an increase to the recording time of cockpit voice recorders from the current two-hour loop to a proposed 25-hour loop, and require a cockpit video recorder.

The proposal would reorganize the FAA leadership – splitting the deputy role into two positions including a new career deputy administrator for safety and operations.

It would also create a new FAA Office of Innovation as the agency grapples with how to govern drones and flying air taxis. The House bill would create a new National Center for the Advancement of Aerospace, a new Ombudsman of the FAA and new Aviation Noise Officer.

It would direct the FAA to end the use of leaded aviation gasoline by piston-engine aircraft by the end of 2030 and prohibit spending federal funding to buy Chinese manufactured jet bridges.

The proposal would also allow pilots to complete 150 hours of required training in a flight simulator. Pilots currently can count 100 hours toward their required 1,500 training hours in a flight simulator or flight training device.

(Reporting by David ShepardsonEditing by Frances Kerry)

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