A coalition of aviation industry groups from the Air Line Pilots Association to the U.S. Travel Association sent a letter to President Trump and congressional leaders Thursday, urging an end to the second longest government shutdown.
“This partial shutdown has already inflicted real damage to our nation’s aviation system and the impacts will only worsen over time,” the letter says. “We urge you to act quickly to resolve these issues.”
The letter from 34 associations highlights 11 major areas of concern affecting travel, including:
Longer airport wait times and possible checkpoint shutdowns: “Nearly all TSA and CBP (Customers and Border Protection) personnel are working without pay, which creates a severe financial hardship for many. Many are warning that several Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) are living paycheck to paycheck and will be forced to find other work, without any means to replace them. We expect workforce capacity issues will increase the longer the government is partially shut down and employees face working without the certainty of a paycheck. This could result in significant operational impacts at airports across the country.”
The groups said a decline in the number of TSA agents screening travelers means “wait times will grow and larger crowds will be forced to congregate in public areas of airports.”
Checkpoints may have to be closed in some cases, they say.
“Some airports are already struggling to keep up with a record number of travelers, and reduced staffing levels will exacerbate problems in the near-term and into the busy spring and summer travel seasons,” the letter says. “Reduced staffing levels are of particular concern at airports that have high-profile events ongoing or scheduled to occur in the near future, including major trade shows and sporting events.”
The shutdown has also closed CBP’s trusted traveler program, Global Entry.
Aircraft safety: “Most of the FAA staff who certify the safety of aircraft have been furloughed and safety reporting and oversight systems have been suspended. This is critical to resolving identified issues. The continued shutdown of these certification functions will also delay some companies in bringing their products to market and hurt deliveries and exports. We understand and appreciate that the FAA is committed to bringing all safety inspectors back to work, but it is not currently clear whether they will be able to perform key functions impacting operations.”
Air Traffic Control: “Training of air traffic controllers has been suspended, slowing the arrival of new workers in a system that is already at a 30-year low. As the shutdown persists, excepted air traffic controllers and workers in technical operations, who operate and maintain safety-critical navigational aids, surveillance, and communications equipment, are performing highly skilled and safety-critical services without pay. Moreover, the shutdown strains resources that are available for maintaining and servicing these critical ATC systems.”
Pilot training: “The FAA is unable to issue new student pilot certificates, which has halted training for countless prospective pilots. Similarly, the FAA is unable to issue certifications required for current pilots to upgrade their position meaning these pilots will experience a delay in their planned upgrades until the shutdown is resolved. The FAA is not processing mandated pilot background checks (PRIA). These are critical for continuity of operations – without these PRIA authorizations, new hire pilot training is at a standstill.”
The letter was signed by 34 associations:
Aerospace Industries Association Aeronautical Repair Station Association Air Line Pilots Association Air Medical Operators Association Air Traffic Control Association Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association Airlines for America Airport Consultants Council Airports Council International-North America American Association of Airport Executives Association of Air Medical Services Association of Flight Attendants – CWA Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems Int’l Aviation Suppliers Association Aviation Technician Education Council Cargo Airline Association Commercial Drone Alliance Commercial Spaceflight Federation Experimental Aircraft Association General Aviation Manufacturers Association Helicopter Association International International Air Transport Association International Brotherhood of Teamsters – Airline Division Modification and Replacement Parts Association National Air Carrier Association National Air Traffic Controllers Association National Air Transportation Association National Association of State Aviation Officials National Business Aviation Association Professional Aviation Maintenance Association Regional Airline Association Security Manufacturers Coalition Travelers United U.S. Travel Association