Last week, in a press conference call with reporters, leading airline passenger rights and consumer advocates warned against what they say will be “negative and dire impacts” of air traffic control privatization. The current bill about to be considered in the U.S. House of Representatives H.R. 2997, known as the 21st Century AIRR Act, would transfer control of the nation’s vital air traffic control infrastructure to a private board heavily dominated by commercial airline interests and with no public accountability, leaving consumers and communities out in the cold, they say.
In a news release following the news conference, some of the groups spoke out on their views concerning how the commercial airlines could shape and influence the system to hurt consumers and communities, as well as the many mistruths that have been pushed by the commercial airlines and their proponents to try to build support for this risky, giveaway to private interests.
“The near-daily parade of consumers’ airline horror stories should illustrate to Congress just how little passengers’ interests matter to a hyper-consolidated airline industry,” said Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of the National Consumers League. “Instead of helping the airlines grab even more power through air traffic control privatization, the Senate’s version of the FAA reauthorization bill includes pro-consumer, pro-competition language that will begin to address long-standing consumer complaints about egregious add-on fees, shrinking seat sizes and accessibility for people with disabilities.”
“After my experience being assaulted by a United airlines employee during a recent layover in Houston, I was alarmed to learn that the big airlines are continuing to lobby Congress to get even more power over our lives including a plan to hand oversight of air traffic control to a corporate nonprofit board largely controlled by them,” said Lindsay Urbani, an airline passenger, shared her unique perspective. “I’m no expert, but it seems to me that our elected representatives in Congress should be focusing on passing laws that provide more regulation and increased rights to passengers like me instead of trusting the airlines to do the right thing, when it’s obvious that they cannot be trusted to do so.”
“United Airlines, which “re-accommodated” Dr. David Dao, kicked Lindsay Urbani in the head, shoved 71-year old Ronald Tigner to the ground, and is facing a $435,000 FAA fine for flying an unsafe plane 23 times, along with nearly every other big airline is enthusiastic about turning over FAA’s responsibility for air traffic control to a private corporation that it will help control,” said Jeremy Cooperstock, an airline passenger advocate and professor at McGill University. “With this record, could anyone believe that such a scheme would be in the best interests of passengers?”
“Consumers and passengers have expressed grave concern over giving the big airlines unchecked power. The last several months have been marked with case after case of airlines abusing their own passengers and causing system wide delays because of their own poor management of their IT systems,” said Selena Shilad, Executive Director of the Alliance for Aviation Across America. “On top of this, airline consolidation has left passengers with little choice in many cases, the airlines continue to add fees for everything they can think of, and service to small and mid-sized cities continues to shrink. We need to keep Congress in charge of our air traffic control system.”