In a joint statement released Wednesday, unions representing air traffic controllers, flight attendants, and pilots urged Congress and the White House to end the government shutdown, warning that the reduction in resources could affect their ability to prevent accidents.
“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 statement read.
The National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), and the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) collectively represent more than 130,000 workers, many of whom have been unable to “come to work due to the financial toll of the shutdown,” according to the statement.
“The situation is changing at a rapid pace. Major airports are already seeing security checkpoint closures, with many more potentially to follow. Safety inspectors and federal cyber security staff are not back on the job at pre-shutdown levels,” the statement read. “In addition, we are not confident that the system-wide analyses of safety reporting data, which is used to identify and implement corrective actions in order to reduce risks and prevent accidents is 100 percent operational due to reduced [Federal Aviation Administration] resources.”
American Airlines Chairman and CEO Doug Parker told reporters in a call Thursday morning that the consequences of the shutdown “are really concerning to us.”
“Our business is so focused on safety that to the extent there are fewer TSA people or fewer air traffic controllers, what tends to happen is you get long lines at TSA but still the same level of scrutiny,” Parker said. “You get larger separation of aircraft so you have delays in airspace … So that’s what we fear may happen.”
“We don’t need distractions,” said Robert Isom, president of American Airlines Group and American Airlines. “We need people to be at work and confident.”
The record-breaking partial government shutdown is the longest in U.S. history, reaching 34 days on Thursday, with no end in sight. More than 800,000 federal workers are affected, about half of whom are working without pay.
The Senate plans to vote on competing proposals to re-open the government Thursday — one granting President Donald Trump $5.7 billion for a border wall and another on a Democratic measure that would re-open the government through February 8 without funding for a wall. As many Republican lawmakers have refused to consider legislation that does not include funds for Trump’s proposed border wall, it is unlikely that either measure will secure the 60 votes needed to pass.
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