The Biden administration has issued warnings that a government shutdown could disrupt the air travel system in the United States. This warning is part of an effort to place blame on House Republicans ahead of a potential funding lapse this weekend.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg stated that a shutdown would jeopardize the progress made by the administration in addressing an air traffic controller shortage, modernizing aviation technology, and reducing flight delays and cancellations that have inconvenienced travelers. He emphasized the negative consequences of a shutdown, describing it as disruptive and dangerous.
If funding does lapse, federal workers could be furloughed or forced to work without pay. While air traffic controllers and Transportation Security Administration officers would continue to work, they would not receive payment until the shutdown is resolved.
The White House released a statement with a state-by-state breakdown of the approximately 13,000 air traffic controllers and 50,000 TSA officers who would be affected by the shutdown. The statement warned that such an “extreme Republican shutdown” could lead to delays for travelers.
In addition to the immediate impact on air travel, a shutdown could also hinder the government’s efforts to address the existing shortage of air traffic controllers. The pandemic had already resulted in training cutbacks at the Federal Aviation Administration’s academy, and a shutdown would further halt training for new controllers.
Furthermore, the Federal Aviation Administration could face additional disruption as Congress also faces a deadline to pass legislation reauthorizing the agency. If this deadline is not met, it could further exacerbate the challenges faced by the air travel system.
The previous partial government shutdown in 2018 and 2019 forced air traffic controllers and TSA agents to work without pay for 35 days, drawing significant attention to the effects on the nation’s air travel system.