As the debt ceiling showdown continues to suck all of the oxygen out of Washington, the fact remains that the Federal Aviation Administration is shutdown due to a lack of funding, and House Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica (R-FL) says he has “no idea” when the FAA might be reauthorized. Due to the shutdown, 4,000 federal employees have been furloughed, the more than 150,000 airport construction projects have been halted (idling 70,000 workers) and the government is unable to collect more than $200 million per week in airline taxes.
House Republicans shut down the FAA over their insistence that any bill to reauthorize the agency also include an anti-union provision that would make it harder for employees at airlines and railroads to organize. One of the biggest corporate proponents of this anti-union provision is Delta Airlines, which has been fighting for years to stave off unionization (and is currently under investigation for tampering with union elections). Ironically, the GOP shut down the FAA due to Delta’s anti-union demands, and Delta is now profiting off of the FAA shutdown:
Delta Air Lines Inc. said on Wednesday it will keep pocketing millions in additional daily revenue from federal taxes that disappeared last week because of the Federal Aviation Administration’s shutdown…The FAA’s inability to collect a variety of levies including domestic ticket sales taxes and segment fees is allowing Delta to reap between $4 million and $5 million in additional daily revenue. The taxes had added 10% or more to an airline ticket’s price. Most—but not all—airlines have raised ticket fares by a similar amount.
Several airlines, Delta included, have increased their ticket prices following the suspension of federal airline taxes, and are simply pocketing the difference, rather than passing the savings on to customers. Yesterday, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) took to the senate floor to excoriate the GOP for letting Delta dictate policy:
I wish I understood why the policy objections of one company — Delta Air Lines — mattered more than the livelihoods of thousands of people. Last year, the CEO of Delta made $9 million. Delta paid its top executives almost $20 million. Yet, it is fighting to make sure its employees cannot organize for fear that they may secure a few extra dollars in their paychecks. At the same time it is pushing for special interest provisions in the FAA bill, Delta announced it was abandoning air service to 26 small rural communities—leaving many of them without air service.
Adding one last bit of insult to injury, Delta announced yesterday that it will be cutting 2,000 jobs, while increasing fares and cutting back on services. Last month, Delta found itself in hot water for charging troops who were returning from Afghanistan $2,800 in baggage fees.