UNOS applauds passage of FAA reauthorization bill | News Direct

UNOS applauds passage of FAA reauthorization bill Congress establishes organ transportation workgroup to review whether organs transported via commercial flight could once again travel safely in a plane’s cabin

News release by United Network for Organ Sharing

facebook icon linkedin icon twitter icon pinterest icon email icon Richmond, VA | May 15, 2024 02:53 PM Eastern Daylight Time


Today, the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) issued its support of Congress’ passage of the bipartisan, bicameral Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill, which includes a provision to improve the safety and efficiency of the transportation of donor organs through the nation’s commercial aviation system. The bill now heads to the president’s desk for signature.

 The Securing Growth and Robust Leadership in American Aviation Act requires the Department of Transportation (DOT), in consultation with the FAA, to convene a working group to develop best practices for transporting organs in the cabin of a commercial aircraft. The working group will include organ procurement organizations, transplant hospitals, commercial airlines, flight attendants and other federal agencies. DOT is required to convene the working group no later than 90 days after the bill is enacted. No later than one year after convening, the working group must present recommendations to the secretary of DOT.

Before the September 11 attacks, organs – primarily kidneys – were transported within a commercial flight’s main cabin under supervision of the aircrew. The attacks prompted significant changes to airport protocols, including removing transplant professionals’ ability to accompany an organ through security without an airplane ticket. As a result, organs currently travel in the cargo hold and are subject to cargo business hours, which vary between airlines and are impacted by staffing shortages. Organs arriving when a cargo office is closed sit on ice for prolonged periods, increasing the potential for an organ not to be used.

“Ensuring a donated organ gets to a patient on time and safely is absolutely critical, which is why UNOS has been working with the donation and transplant community and Congress to create a process to bring organs out of the cargo hold and back into the cabin of an airplane,” said Maureen McBride, Ph.D., CEO of UNOS. “Thank you to those working with us to advocate for change and include this provision in the FAA reauthorization package, namely Senators Ron Wyden, Maria Cantwell, Ted Cruz, and John Thune, and Reps. Bruce Westerman, Greg Stanton, Beth Van Duyne, Sam Graves, and Rick Larsen. The bill’s passage highlights the bipartisan consensus and understanding of the lifesaving importance of this issue. I appreciate the commitment to honor the gift of life and do right by patients on the waitlist, generous donors, and their families. I look forward to working with the Department of Transportation to bring organs back into the cabin of an aircraft.”

Transportation is a cornerstone of the UNOS Action Agenda, a series of recommendations to strengthen the U.S. donation and transplant system. To further reduce the risk of delaying or damaging organs in transport, UNOS also recommends the next contracts for the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) should require the use of physical trackers for unaccompanied donor organs recovered for transplant, and the establishment of a centralized organ tracking system.

“Donations and transplants are going up across the country, and so are the number of organs traveling every hour of every day,” said McBride. “This community owes it to patients and donor families to ensure that organs travel as safely and efficiently as possible. Every viable organ ultimately not transplanted represents a profound loss.”

The provision included in the FAA reauthorization bill is the result of ongoing advocacy by UNOS and other members of the nation’s organ donation and transplant community. Since 2022, UNOS has engaged with FAA leadership, the Transportation Security Administration and the House and Senate to pursue this reform.

Actions to move organs back to the airplane cabin and out of cargo are widely endorsed by the donation and transplant community, including the American Association of Kidney Patients, American Foundation for Donation & Transplantation, American Kidney Fund, American Society of Histocompatibility and Immunogenetics, American Society of Nephrology, American Society of Transplantation, American Society of Transplant Surgeons, Association of Organ Procurement Organizations, Donate Life America, Donate Life Virginia, Kidney Care Partners, Kidney Transplant Collaborative, National Kidney Foundation, Nationwide Organ Recovery Transport Alliance, North American Transplant Coordinators Organization, Organ Donation Advocacy Group, Renal Physicians Association, Transplant Recipients International Organization, Transplant Families, Transplant Unwrapped, and Waitlist Zero.


About UNOS


United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) is the mission-driven non-profit serving as the nation’s transplant system under contract with the federal government. We lead the network of transplant hospitals, organ procurement organizations, and thousands of volunteers who are dedicated to honoring the gifts of life entrusted to us and to making lifesaving transplants possible for patients in need. Working together, we leverage data and advances in science and technology to continuously strengthen the system, increase the number of organs recovered and the number of transplants performed, and ensure patients across the nation have equitable access to transplant.


Contact Details


United Network for Organ Sharing


Anne Paschke


+1 804-782-4730


Company Website