Security wait times have increased as TSA screeners call in sick — coming to work not knowing when they’ll be paid is demoralizing. Air traffic controllers are working without knowing when they’ll be paid, too. But is there any reason that has to be so?
Matt Young effectively asks, should US airlines hire the screeners and air traffic controllers and pay them directly?
Airports can have private screeners following TSA protocols, instead of federal screeners. However the TSA has to approve it, which they won’t while the government is shut down (there has been a monumental bias against it to begin with).
Air traffic control is also a function that’s performed privately at some airports, controllers are represented by the same National Air Traffic Controllers Association affiliated with the AFL-CIO.
There are rules against certain federal employees having outside employment.
All of these objections make sense in the event of a short shutdown, but things have gone on and it’s not obvious when the shutdown ends. We’ve seen the federal government bring back aircraft inspectors and make payments to TSA employees that hadn’t been originally planned. Extreme measures are possible.
Would US airlines do this? It would demonstrate they can pay for airport security and air traffic control, that they can manage these processes themselves, and so there’s little reason for the government to do it for them. It would mean they could take responsibility for their own businesses. They’d rather have taxpayers fund it.
On the other hand most US airlines have favored spinning off air traffic control to operate as a non-profit just like in Canada, where costs are lower and technology investment better. And airlines only signed on to the TSA boondoggle on the belief in exchange the Air Transportation Stabilization Board would dole out billions in subsidies. Here’s American Airlines CEO Doug Parker, then of America West, asking Congress for subsidies after 9/11.
Have we gone too far down the road of government paying for everything? Or could we return to having screeners at least paid for by the airlines (through third party contractors, no doubt)?