Congress failed to prevent a partial Federal Airline Administration (FAA) shutdown that started at midnight on Friday. How will this affect travelers and the aviation industry overall?
The FAA has been forced to furlough more than 4,000 employees in 35 states. As this is only a partial shutdown, all airports will continue to operate as normal and there will not be cuts to airport security.
The first question on most travelers’ minds is whether this will affect ticket prices. All ticket sales normally include an FAA tax, but without new authorization that tax is not being collected. On average, without tax there is a savings of $61 on a $300 ticket. Some security and airport fees are still being collected.
Airlines have responded differently to this change. As of Saturday night, American, United, Continental, Delta, US Airways, Southwest, and AirTran have all raised fares to some degree. Most of the increases are about 7.5 percent, which is about the amount of federal tax.
Spirit, Virgin America, Hawaiian, Alaskan and other carriers have not raised fares to offset the lack of federal taxes. JetBlue will not add taxes on tickets booked after July 23 and some customers can request a tax refund over email.
The air traffic controllers employed by the FAA are still on the job, but are they conscious? FAA, Air Traffic Controllers Roll Out New Guidelines To Prevent Sleeping On The Job
The shutdown has halted the $2.5 billion in ongoing construction projects at airports around the country that are funded by the tax. It is estimated it will cost $200 million for each week of lost revenue.
Most of the new construction projects were for new air traffic control towers. In addition to halting construction, the partial shutdown had delayed NextGen system testing and airport certification.
Due to the partial shutdown, there is now a question as to whether Boeing’s new 747-8 jet will be approved to land at five U.S. airports in the the fall. The FAA has to certify all the airports where it will operate to make sure they can handle the plane that is 18 feet longer and 13 feet wider than current 747 models. The original certification schedule aimed for August deadlines for a September 1 launch. Though the schedule may be in jeopardy, Boeing has said that this glitch shouldn’t delay the jet’s launch.
There were several outstanding issues that prevented Congress from passing the FAA funding bill. There was no resolution regarding the proposed $1,000 subsidy cap for flights to rural airports. Also, the anti-union restrictions that the House passed were not accepted by the Senate.
If Congress is unable to pass a long-term funding authorization bill, one option is to pass a “clean” funding bill. There have been 20 clean funding bills since the last long-term authorization bill expired in 2007.
A clean bill was proposed on Friday afternoon, but opposed by Senator Orrin Hatch, who has said that Senate Republicans were committed to passing a long-term funding bill like the one passed by the House, not another short-term extension.
By Lily J. Kosner for PeterGreenberg.com.
Related Links on PeterGreenberg.com:
- Air Traffic Controller Mistakes Double As Serious Safety Incidents Reported
- FAA, Air Traffic Controllers Roll Out New Guidelines To Prevent Sleeping On The Job
- Air Traffic Control Staffing Concerns & Frequent Flier Face-Lifts
- FAA’s Chief Air Traffic Control Officer Resigns In Wake Of Sleeping Controller Scandals
- Washington’s Reagan National Airport Air Traffic Controller Allegedly Falls Asleep, Putting Planes At Risk
- Sleeping Air Traffic Controllers: What Needs To Be Done In Aviation Safety