Privatizing air traffic controllers will fundamentally destablize air travel in the United States.

July 13, 2016
Contact: Julia Alschuler


Bill passage ends months of wasted time spent debating special interest-driven proposal to privatize Air Traffic Control

Washington, DC – Today, as a long-term extension to fund the FAA until September of 2017 heads to President Obama’s desk, AAATP looks back at how the debate over an airline driven proposal with bipartisan opposition prevented the passage of comprehensive legislation to improve our nation’s aviation system.

AAATP spokesperson Julia Alschuler said, “Chairman Shuster led us on a debate to nowhere that preoccupied members of Congress and aviation groups at a time when there was real work to be done to ensure stable long-term funding for our Air Traffic Control system. It is Chairman Shuster’s most basic obligation as Chairman of the T&I Committee to consider legislation in the best interest of the American people, not the very special interests that fund his campaigns. Now that the door is shut and the case is closed on privatization, we urge Congress to begin debating a new path forward so that improvements for consumers, workers and system users are made while ensuring that the American aviation system remains the greatest safest system in the world.”

A look back at a fight to appease special interests that only wasted time:

February 3: Chairman Shuster introduces the AIRR Act to privatize Air Traffic Control. Senate and House Appropriators, Ways and Means Committee Members, T&I Committee Democrats, and several T&I Committee Republicans oppose the provision based on concerns over separating the ATC from the FAA and a lack of safeguards for consumers, general aviation and rural users.

February 10: Chairman Shuster immediately holds a hearing and markup on the bill with little time for substantial debate on a plan that would greatly affect millions of Americans. AAATP delivers over 130,000 petition signatures to Congress opposing privatization.

February 15: The New York Times Editorial Board slams the proposal stating the bill “gives short shrift to passengers’ interests” and “does nothing to improve the present, federally operated system and indeed could make it worse.”

February 23: Congressman Shuster is seen vacationing with A4A executives in Miami as they continue to push privatization together.

February 25: Just 15 days after the AIRR Act passes out of committee, House Republican Leadership shelves plans to support the AIRR Act and announces plans for another shot-term extension.

March 9: The CBO releases a report showing that privatization as proposed in the AIRR Act would cost 20 billion dollars over 10 years while handing over a government function to a corporate entity for free.

March 9: The Senate Commerce Committee lead by Senator Thune unveils bipartisan comprehensive FAA reauthorization without Air Traffic Control privatization, a major blow to airline industry special interests and signal that Chairman Shuster’s proposal is far from a solution.

April 19: Senate passes FAA Reauthorization, sends the bill to the House. Labor, aviation groups and consumer groups opposed to privatization overwhelmingly support the Senate’s reauthorization signaling further bipartisan support. Senator Nelson warns that Chairman Shuster’s continued insistence on “controversial measures could put the bill in jeopardy and result in a big loss for consumers and for the safety of the flying public.”

April 21: Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously oppose privatization in the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill stating that “the annual congressional oversight process is best suited to protect consumers and preserve access to urban, suburban and rural communities.”

May: Chairman Shuster’s proposal continues to face opposition from the left and the right as seven federal worker unions send a new letter to House members strongly opposing privatization and conservative groups raise questions over earmarks and handouts in the AIRR Act.

June 6: Daily Kos launches progressive action urging the American people to oppose privatization – over 10,000 letters are sent to Chairman Shuster and Congress within the course of a week.

June: The House takes no action on the comprehensive Senate FAA Reauthorization. Chairman Shuster fails to make progress on support for privatization as colleagues and aviation groups continue to express concern.

July 6: Growing increasingly frustrated by a focus on a provision that does nothing to strengthen the aviation system, Senator Nelson tells Politico that the Department of Defense will never agree to allow private air traffic controllers to control U.S. airspace.

July 6: Less than 10 days before the FAA is set to expire, the Senate Commerce and House T&I Committee announce a deal for a long-term FAA extension until September 2017. Deal excludes privatization and includes key provisions for consumers.

July 11: House passes the extension keeping the FAA funded for 15 months.

July 13: The Senate passes the extension, sends bill to President Obama’s desk, Congress now has 14 months to debate a new path forward for the FAA.