National Consumers League

NCL statement on President Trump’s Air Traffic Control Privatization Proposal

June 5, 2017

Contact: National Consumers League, Cindy Hoang, cindyh@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC - The National Consumers League (NCL), America’s pioneering consumer and worker advocacy organization, called today’s announcement by the White House that it will support the privatization of the nation’s air traffic control (ATC) infrastructure a grave threat to consumer’s safety and pocketbooks. NCL further called on pro-consumer members of Congress to resist efforts to include such a proposal in the forthcoming reauthorization legislation for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

“As the Dr. David Dao and subsequent incidents clearly indicate, the airline industry wastes no opportunity to demonstrate its blatant disregard for the personal safety and financial well-being of the millions of consumers who must rely on the nation’s airlines every day,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “Instead of supporting efforts to rein in the worst excesses of an oligopolistic industry, the White House is proposing to give the airlines even greater power -- this time over the critically important air traffic control system. Such a power grab by the industry is entirely unacceptable and should be resisted.” 

The White House’s proposal is reportedly based on the ATC privatization language that Congressman Bill Shuster (R-PA), Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has long championed with support from some of the country’s biggest airlines. The privatization scheme would remove the critical role that the FAA plays in maintaining the safety and security of the nation’s airways and replace it with a nonprofit board dominated by the airlines themselves. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found on multiple occasions that ATC privatization schemes would not significantly improve passenger safety, protect national security, or accelerate the deployment of the NextGen ATC technology. In a worst-case scenario, the GAO found that taxpayers could be on the hook for bailing out the nonprofit corporation that the White House is promoting if it is unable to properly maintain the nation’s ATC system.

“ATC privatization would almost certainly lead to more fees being piled on the backs of consumers who are already forced to endure cramped seats, poor service, and outrageous nickel-and-diming for every possible thing from food to seats to blankets," said John Breyault, NCL vice president of public policy, telecommunications and fraud. “The airlines’ ATC privatization campaign is yet another effort to shift more of the costs of providing safe, efficient service onto consumers. The bottom line is that airlines should focus more on getting their own houses in order and less on trying to privatize an ATC system that, despite its warts, has an admirable record of protecting the safety and security of the flying public.”

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About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America's pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.