Press release: Udall’s measures advance to president

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) reported today that his legislation to help prevent drunk driving and dangerous “air rage” will now be sent to the president’s desk as a part of the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill that passed the Senate. Udall, whodiscussed the accomplishment on his weekly radio call, has been fighting to pass this measure following a deadly alcohol-related car crash in 2006 that claimed six lives. Click here for full audio of this week’s call.

Udall’s proposal requires airlines to train flight attendants and gate agents on recognizing and dealing with inebriated or belligerent passengers. The purpose is to help personnel makeinformed decisions about whether a customer should be served alcohol, and to help them cope with passengers who disrupt flights. Current federal regulations prohibit an intoxicated person from boarding a flight, but it is not mandatory for airlines to provide training to ensure that regulations are obeyed.

“This provision aims to make both our skies and our roads safer,” said Udall. “As New Mexico’s Attorney General, I fought for more effective alcohol server training for bars and restaurants and given the dangers of passengers being overserved on flights, it’s commonsense that we should prepare our airline personnel the same way.”

Udall was prompted to research airline alcohol server protocol as a member of the House of Representatives after a drunk driving accident in New Mexico that resulted in the deaths of five family members from Las Vegas. The driver, who caused the crash, was also killed and had been drinking on an airline before the accident.

During his research on airline personnel training, Udall discovered that “air rage” incidents-dangerous outbursts by airline passengers often fueled by alcohol-have risen 400 percent since 2000. Roughly 10,000 incidents occur each year in the United States. His proposal would train airline personnel on how to prevent these incidents and how to address them when they occur.

The legislation has been endorsed by Mothers Against Drunk Driving and organizations representing flight attendants, pilots, federal air marshals,airport law enforcement, and air traffic controllers. These include the National Air Traffic Controllers Association and the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA).

Udall also detailed two more of his initiatives that were included in the FAA bill.

His measure to speed-up privacy protections for airline passengers screened by whole-body scanners by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will also be signed into law. It requires the TSA to implement the use of new, less invasive screening software to eliminate the use of passenger-specific body images during the screening process by June. For comparative images, click here.

The bill also includes his provision to advance a land exchange to improve access at the Santa Teresa Airport.

“Airplane travel is a norm for countless Americans. And I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want it to be moreefficient and as safe as possible. Because of this bill, we are able to create or save jobs by improving flight safety,” Udall said on the call. “It’s not a perfect bill, but its passage was vitally important.”

In addition the FAA Reauthorization bill will:

• Create or save almost 280,000 jobs

• Provide a four year budget for the FAA allowing better long-term planning and provide the stability it needs for a world-class air travel system

• Upgrade this country’s air-traffic control system from the World War II-era technology relied on today. Improvements would upgrade to modern, satellite technology to track aircraft and guide them in for safe landings.