President Donald Trump announced his plan to privatize the air traffic controllers system, which would essentially hand over operations of the airways from the federal government to a nonprofit corporation.
During an event Monday at the White House, Trump boasted that privatizing control of the nation's skyways will speed up modernization of the air traffic system, which has been slow to switch from radar to more precise — and efficient — GPS technology.
"It's a broken, antiquated, horrible system," Trump said Monday to a group of airline executives.
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The nation's largest air carriers have been lobbying for such a change for years, but Republicans in Congress have failed to get enough support to pass a bill. Democrats have been resistant in handing over control of the airways to big businesses. Trump's interest gives renewed momentum to the idea. His plan is reportedly based on a bill introduced last year by Rep. Bill Shuster, a Republican from Pennsylvania.
Trump says the plan would save taxpayers from funding air traffic operations and would be paid with "no tax money" at all. But the structure of the nonprofit corporation would give board members (mostly airline industry representatives and workers), broad leeway in raising prices on consumers to cover the cost of air traffic services. According to the Congressional Budget Office, such a plan (based on an analysis of Shuster's bill) would actually increase spending on air traffic services to speed up modernization efforts. It's very likely that under Trump's plan, consumers will continue footing most of the bill for these operations, which will now be more expensive.
"Sooner or later air passengers will bear the burden of this expensive new entity in the form of more expensive air fare," wrote Andrew Langer, the president of the Institute for Liberty, a small libertarian think tank, in an op-ed in The Hill newspaper.