The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee reported out the AIRR or FAA reauthorization bill on a party line vote 32-25 all Rs voting Aye, all Ds No.
It included an amendment by Rep. Steve Cohen calling on the FAA to set minimum seat standards within 1 year, but contained no moratorium on further shrinkage, no prescription of what the standards should be other than they should consider passenger safety and health. Rep. Cohen thanked American, Southwest, and Delta Airlines for not opposing but failed to mention FlyersRights.
Virtually all other D amendments were defeated including requiring Consumer or public interest reps on the ATC corp board, capping the salary of the CEO at no more than the US President, charging for the ATC assets to conveyed, protecting funding for the remaining FAA functions of safety and certification, and improvements to existing ATC NextGen management and funding. President Trump is reported to be pressuring Senators to support the ATC corp which has his backing. Our amendment to strengthen the bumping rights provision was not presented so those remain as Charlie Leocha previously summarized.
We have endorsed a host of amendments by Sen Markey and Blumenthal that will be proposed on 6/29 to the Senate bill. I expect stand alone Air Travel Reform bill to be introduced that may have a chance to have some provisions included in the final leg.
Congress comes back on July 10 and I would like to see if we can get some passengers who have suffered or witnessed Airline mistreatment to appear at a forum at the National Press Club or our facility that we would sponsor with some other groups and perhaps even do an Anti Airline Abuse Protest or Rally in LaFayette Park across from the White House.
As one Republican Congressman Rokita (R-Ind) noted yesterday this is very different from normal privatization where government leases or gives private corporation a concession or contract to operate in a public space or provide a service.
This is creating a corporate monopoly and turning over the nation’s civilian air space to it. It is corporatization and transfer to special interests a major national treasure. No other country has done this. The ATC corp could sell off assets, pay multi million dollar salaries, tax without limitation, borrow without limitation, eliminate labor protections for new ATC employees, change training and hiring standards, change approaches to airports without FAA control and will take $ from the Aviation trust fund used for airport improvements and FAA ops. As a nonprofit it pays no taxes, but it could go insolvent- as has happened in other countries and need government bailouts.
There is no assurance that it would modernize ATC any better or faster than the FAA, and as airlines do not want to spend the $200k per plane to install needed equipment and a corp cannot force them to the change is likely to actually delay modernization.
The General Aviation community, mayors, airport, consumer groups, aviation safety communities and labor unions except the big pilot and ATC unions are all against. What could happen is what happened when airlines controlled aviation security – 9/11, when AMTRAK was given a monopoly over intercity train travel – no high speed rail, horrible reliability, poor customer service, poor safety, some cushy labor agreements, little capital investment, exemption from most civil liability and all state consumer consumer protection and antitrust law, money losing without end.
Or when highways and bridges and traffic enforcement are privatized, consumer prices go up up up, people avoid high prices and tolls wherever possible so revenues never meet projections and government bailouts or buy backs are usually required. It comes down to who do you trust to control the sky? A government agency with an excellent track record of safety and reliability but with flaws and limitations caused by politics, undue airline influence and bureaucracy, or a new corporate monopoly with vast powers controlled by airlines and other corporate aviation interests?
Paul Hudson, FlyersRights president