Three unions representing the U.S. flight industry came together to issue a dire warning this week regarding air travel safety in light of the ongoing government shutdown, addressing staff shortages, security checkpoint closures, and safety inspections, among other concerns.
National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) President Paul Rinaldi, Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) President Joe DePete, and Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA) President Sara Nelson said the air safety environment in the U.S. is “deteriorating by the day.”
“We have a growing concern for the safety and security of our members, our airlines, and the traveling public due to the government shutdown. This is already the longest government shutdown in the history of the United States and there is no end in sight. 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.”
“Air traffic controllers, transportation security officers, safety inspectors, air marshals, federal law enforcement officers, FBI agents, and many other critical workers” have been on the job with no pay for more than a month, they write, and air traffic controllers are “only able to maintain the system’s efficiency and capacity by working overtime, including 10-hour days and 6-day workweeks”.
“In addition, we are not confident that 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 FAA resources.”
It is “unconscionable” that the federal government expects aviation professionals to work without pay — particularly with no end in sight — and “in an air safety environment that is deteriorating by the day,” they wrote.
“To avoid disruption to our aviation system, we urge Congress and the White House to take all necessary steps to end this shutdown immediately. “