The FAA must furlough around 4,000 of its roughly 47,000 employees because Congress adjourned for the week without passing a reauthorization extension for the agency. The current FAA reauthorization expires at midnight Friday, July 22, 2011.
“I’m very disappointed that Congress adjourned today without passing a clean extension of the FAA bill,” said Secretary LaHood. “Because of their inaction, states and airports won’t be able to work on their construction projects, and too many people will have to go without a paycheck.”
The FAA noted, however, that safety of the flying public will not be compromised by the situation.
The Airport Improvement Program has already stopped processing new airport grants in anticipation of a furlough. The program, which provides construction project grants to airports, will be shut down and cease providing construction projects at airports around the country.
Both sides in Congress wasted no time in engaging in finger pointing over the situation.
“It is unbelievable that after the House passed the 21st FAA extension, the Senate departed Washington and left the FAA and many of its employees behind,” said John Mica (R-FL). Mica is the Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and chair of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee in the Senate said, “The House did a disservice this week, and I am hopeful that they will realize the error of their ways and return to the table so we can work out a compromise that restores funding to the FAA.”
A potential upside to the situation is that the stalemate could prove beneficial for the traveling public with the government temporarily removed from the air travel process. The FAA must stop collecting about $200 million per week in air travel taxes/fees until the reauthorization is passed. If airlines do not increase their rates during this time period, air travelers could save about $30 in taxes on a $300 round trip ticket, according to AP reports.