An Open Letter To Airline CEOs

Re: Air Traffic Control Privatization, A Passenger Sucker Punch?

    As you know, Congress is expected to vote in September on legislation to transfer control of the nation’s skies from the FAA to a private corporation with the power to tax passengers without Congress.

    You have argued that this would make air travel better by reducing delays and reducing costs through efficiency and modernization of air traffic control. Congressional hearings, however, have revealed that you have not invested in the equipment needed for modern GPS based air traffic control, with only 6% of the US airliner fleet equipped. And you have asked the FAA for a delay to 2025 from the present 2020 deadline.

    You have also reportedly not invested in upgrading your computer systems, or needed reserves of equipment and personnel, causing massive outages and frequent multiple day delays for passengers. Indeed, DOT data say you are directly responsible for 54% of delays vs 12% attributable to air traffic control.

    As you know, the pending legislation, in order to gain support of other aviation groups, has promised that general aviation and corporate jets will not have to pay anything for air traffic control more than the current fuel tax. ATC unions will be protected, and 7 figure executive salaries are contemplated.

    Even so, most large general aviation and corporate jet groups still oppose the legislation as do all consumer groups (i.e. Consumers Union, the National Consumers League, Public Citizen, and, the only exceptions being a travel industry funded group called Travelers United and an airline industry front group called Citizens for On Time Flights), most unions, local governments and non-hub airports.

    So the question becomes, who is going to pay the billions required? As air traffic control taxes are phased out and fees take their place, won’t passengers get hit with bill while airlines get a windfall?

    Are passengers going to be sucker punched with enormous fee increases so airlines and others can avoid capital investments and protect their record breaking 19% profit margins?
Furthermore, how do you see privatization reducing concentration of flights at major hub airports and away from medium to smaller size cities? There was a 25% reduction in flights to non-hub city flights over the past decade. How will privatization reduce congestion? Or will airline control of air traffic control accelerate these trends?

    The fact that passengers would have absolutely NO representation on the board of this new monopoly corporation speaks volumes about the priorities and true intention of this proposal.
We await your prompt answers to these important public policy questions.


Paul Hudson
1440 G Street NW
Washington, DC 20005