Skip to content

Air Officials Say Safety Is 'Deteriorating by the Day' in Shutdown

Jan. 24, 2019
3 min read
Air Officials Say Safety Is 'Deteriorating by the Day' in Shutdown
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

More than a month into the shutdown of the US government, unions for air traffic controllers, pilots and flight attendants are releasing a new dire warning on the effect of the lack of funding on the safety of the air transport system.

“We have a growing concern for the safety and security of our members, our airlines, and the traveling public due to the government shutdown," the biggest unions for ATC, pilots and flight attendants said in a joint statement on Wednesday night. "In our risk averse industry, we cannot even calculate the level of risk currently at play, nor predict the point at which the entire system will break. It is unprecedented."

The release goes on to state that air traffic controllers, transportation security officers, safety inspectors, air marshals, federal law enforcement officers, FBI agents and others working without pay for a month is adding to safety concerns. “As union leaders, we find it unconscionable that aviation professionals are being asked to work without pay and in an air safety environment that is deteriorating by the day," the representatives said, noting that air traffic control operations have been hit particularly hard.

"Staffing in our air traffic control facilities is already at a 30-year low and controllers are only able to maintain the system’s efficiency and capacity by working overtime, including 10-hour days and 6-day workweeks at many of our nation’s busiest facilities," the statement said. The ATC academy run by the Federal Aviation Administration has also closed during the shutdown, meaning the shutdown could exacerbate low staffing numbers in control towers for years to come.

"There are no options to keep these professionals at work without a paycheck when they can no longer afford to support their families," the union leaders note. "When they elect to retire, the National Airspace System (NAS) will be crippled."

Controllers have also been forced to work without support staff, meaning that equipment repairs and other vital services have been delayed or are not happening. Air traffic controllers told TPG that because of the shutdown "morale is very low in facilities," Vito Gioia, an air traffic controller at New York’s LaGuardia Airport, said.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

The union leaders, from the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, the Air Line Pilots Association and the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, further noted that due to furloughed FAA inspectors, they "are not confident" that safety reporting data is being properly analyzed. This data is used to prevent accidents and reduce risks and may not be "100 percent operational due to reduced FAA resources," the statement says.

The unions urged Congress and the White House to reopen the government "to avoid disruption to our aviation system."

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter here: https://thepointsguy.com/mailing-list//

Featured image by Getty Images/EyeEm

Top offers from our partners

How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers