In the middle of vacation season, the GOP insists on not fully funding the FAA which licenses pilots, controls air traffic and inspects the fitness of passenger aircraft. 20 times the FAA has gotten short term extensions.
While the scale of disruption from an FAA shutdown paled in comparison to the global repercussions of a potential U.S. debt default, the aviation fallout was not trivial and may carry political consequences if not resolved soon.
The FAA has issued stop work orders for 241 airport construction projects worth nearly $11 billion, officials said.
“We have the best aviation system in the world,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a conference call with reporters. “This is no way to run it.”
LaHood said FAA air traffic operations were not affected and aircraft safety programs remain in place.
The Obama administration estimates the shutdown has thrown more than 70,000 people out of work since July 22 when the FAA’s latest temporary funding authorization expired.
Many are in construction-related jobs, a sector where unemployment tops 15 percent. Starting on Thursday, those workers may begin showing up in a federal report of people claiming unemployment benefits.
WINDFALL FOR AIRLINES
Nearly 4,000 FAA employees have been furloughed and dozens of inspectors who oversee airport safety standards are working without pay, agency officials said.
Some airports are turning to letters of credit, reserves and commercial paper to keep projects going. Smaller airports may have credit problems and less financial flexibility, given their heavy dependence on federal funds, Fitch Ratings said.
Adding to the discontent from the administration and other quarters, airlines have profited handsomely from the shutdown. Political inaction on the temporary spending measure allowed them to drop certain ticket taxes 11 days ago.
Carriers including Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, American Airlines and US Airways raised fares to match the amount of money passengers no longer had to pay in taxes, bringing in a $250 million windfall.
We are supposed to support tax breaks for Delta, United, American and US Airways so they can create more jobs, yet they actively lobby for less job security for FAA workers and all the airport improvement funded by the FAA. great.