Another Looming FAA Shutdown?

Showdown over the FAA

Another temporary, partial shutdown of the FAA might be underway later this month if some of the issues surrounding an extension of the agency’s authority aren’t sorted out by Congress soon. The main issue: a new rule that makes it easier for airline and other transportation employees to unionize; one of the big critics of this rule is Delta Air Lines.

So is another shutdown on the way? Quite possibly.

Remember the last one? That 13 day shutdown only ended about a month ago, when Congress finally got together and cobbled up an extension, signed by the President on Aug. 5,

However, it’s possible some or maybe even most flyers were unaware of the impasse that began July 23, since it had little immediate effect on passengers. While congressional leaders dithered, flights went relatively smoothly since air traffic controllers stayed on the job.

Effects of FAA Shutdown on Passengers

Not everything was smooth; the shutdown saw thousands of other federal and contractor employees were temporarily thrown out of work. It wasn’t just their missed paychecks, either; many of these men and women were working on airport projects that mean improvements for passengers.

Meantime, the shutdown didn’t improve passengers’ financial situation, either; the anticipated “airline ticket tax holiday” never materialized, thanks to airlines. Quick background: during the shutdown, there was no authority to collect certain ticket taxes that are normally passed on to the government, but instead of allowing passengers to enjoy the savings, the airlines pocketed the money by raising airfares. The rationale seemed to be, “This won’t hurt passengers since they’ll pay the same and we sure can use the money.” Only Alaska and Spirit abstained from the airfare hikes.

The current temporary extension of the FAA’s authority expires Sept. 16. We’ll keep you updated on this issue.

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Published: September 7, 2011