FAA Overhaul Bill Sparks Privatization Controversy

air traffic control
Photo by Freeimages.com/Paul Lechner

House Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster is set to introduce an overhaul of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Wednesday, and the bill is drawing controversy for a reported plan to separate oversight of the U.S. air traffic control system from the FAA into an independent entity, according to Politico

“We do not believe that creating a separate air traffic entity, removed from congressional oversight, will advance efforts to modernize air traffic control,” said Reps. Hal Rogers, Nita Lowey, Mario Diaz-Balart, and David Price, in a letter to the House obtained by Politico. “While FAA can and should improve and accelerate the development of modernized air traffic systems, we do not believe the solution is less oversight and less accountability.” Rep. Peter DeFazio, the top-ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, is preparing to roll out an alternative plan for air traffic control after the debut of Shuster's bill. 

Airlines for America (A4A) has released a statement supporting the plan, arguing that putting air traffic control under the purview of a not-for-profit organization overseen by the FAA and governed by a board that draws from employee unions, general aviation and private fliers, and passengers, would match the way air traffic services are run in the rest of the world. 

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At the same time, Delta has released a study warning that moving air traffic control to a private organization could lead to 20 to 29 percent higher costs for travelers if the organization is funded through user fees. That study is based on a compilation of data from various independent reports reviewing the air traffic control fees associated with a privatized model in Canada and the United Kingdom. According to Delta's report, after the first six years of privatization, Canada saw an additional 59 percent increase on air traffic control-related fees, while in the UK, air traffic control fees rose 30 percent. 

Keep visiting www.travelagentcentral.com for further updates to this developing story. 

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