Oppose Privatized Air Traffic Control
January 7, 2016
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  • The Dec. 20 opinion piece, Don’t gamble with air safety, offered a dubious rationale for why the United Kingdom’s privatized air traffic control (ATC) system ought to serve as a model for the United States.

    First, a seminal moment in the UK system’s history came when the supposedly “stable and predictable funding stream” that would be generated by its user fees proved to be so volatile that it needed a massive bailout from the government and taxpayers.

    In the years since the bailout, a report published by the UK’s own Airports Commission states that the system is “showing unambiguous signs of strain,” producing “more delays, higher fares and reduced connectivity” at London’s airports. It has also affected other areas of the UK, impacting the growth of local economies.

    In addition, in terms of how this compares with the U.S., our system manages nearly 20 percent of the world’s airspace, including some of the most complex, densely traveled airspace anywhere. In the Miami area alone, airports handle, on average, over 27 percent more traffic than the average handled by London area airports.

    What this means is that, even under the rosiest case scenario, the lessons of the UK’s system can’t, and shouldn’t, be applied broadly to the U.S. system, which is the largest, safest, most efficient and diverse in the world. It’s a system with a governance model focused on serving the public benefit; not the business benefits of one aviation-stakeholder group, like the airlines.

    As we work to continue modernizing the U.S. system, it is fair to acknowledge that the status quo is unacceptable, but it’s equally important to recognize that Americans by a two-to-one majority have opposed privatized ATC systems and with good reason. Let’s fix what is broken — everything else is a just a distraction from that imperative.