The FAA reauthorization bill that looked set to proceed through the US Senate in April is an example of both a golden opportunity missed to modernize the US air traffic management system and shameful political interference in market dynamics.

The bill shunned Congressman Bill Shuster’s proposal that would have permitted FAA to restructure, creating an independent, nonprofit corporation outside the agency to manage and operate US ATC. Such a move, supported by the large majority of US carriers, would have been the single biggest service lawmakers could have done for the air traveling public and businesses that rely on an efficient, safe and uncongested aviation system.

Instead, senators went for the “crowd-pull” option and inserted a range of so-called consumer protection language, including directing the US Department of Transportation to develop a standardized format for the display of baggage fees, change fees, ticketing fees and seat selection fees.

It could have been worse—one senator got perilously close to adding an amendment that would also have given DOT wide latitude to regulate ancillary fees. Others, meanwhile, were pushing to include regulation defining the minimum seat-space allocation per passenger.

But for all their public crowing about standing up for the rights of the passenger, what these lawmakers have done is set the stage for more airline delays, which means more miserable people stuck at airports or on planes, missing connections, meetings and long-planned vacations.

The point they missed is that FAA restructuring will ultimately become unavoidable. The numbers are undeniable—even as a mature air traffic market, North America is the world’s largest and it is in growth mode, seeing year-over-year increases in the 7%-9% range.

Without ATC reform, these numbers mean air travelers in the US will eventually endure the types of frustrations experienced in Europe’s congested airspace.

Regulating airline fees will do nothing to improve the situation. Rather, it eats into customer choice. Ultra-low cost-carriers with 28-inch seat pitch that charge for carry-on bags and coffee or sodas may not be how everyone wants to fly, but they have opened the flight option to people who could never have considered it 10 years ago. Full-service carriers, meanwhile, are segmenting their main cabins so they can match ULCC fares, likely still offering free carry-on and beverages, but all else comes at a fee. Or, in the same cabin, you pay more upfront and select your preferred amenities if cost isn’t your overriding priority.

That’s customer choice and US lawmakers are misguided if they believe this bill will improve air passenger service.  On the contrary, they’ve set the clock ticking to a time when what the passenger hates above all—arriving late—will be the norm.