Flyers Rights Pres.: Trump Plan to Privatize Air Traffic Control Could Increase Fees for Passengers


AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org,
The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. On Monday, President Donald Trump kicked off
“infrastructure week” at the White House by announcing plans to privatize air traffic
control. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I’m proposing new
principles to Congress for air traffic control reform, making flights quicker, safer and
more reliable. Crucially, these reforms are supported by
air traffic controllers themselves. … Today, we are taking the first important
step to clearing the runway for more jobs, lower prices and much, much, much better transportation. America is the nation that pioneered air travel. And with these reforms, we can once again
lead the way far into the future. Our nation will move faster, fly higher and
soar proudly toward the next great chapter of American aviation. AMY GOODMAN: This comes as the Congressional
Budget Office analysis says privatizing air traffic control would increase the cost of
air travel. Longtime consumer advocate Ralph Nader reacted
to Trump’s announcement in a statement to Democracy Now!, saying, “Trump’s scheme
to corporatize the U.S. Air Traffic Control System would put the commercial airlines in
a dominant position over other users of the runways and make the collusive profit motives
of an already highly concentrated airline industry a determinant over safety and fairness,”
unquote. During the presidential campaign and since
taking office, Donald Trump has promised to rebuild America’s infrastructure. This is Trump speaking in February. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I will be asking Congress
to approve legislation that produces a $1 trillion investment in infrastructure of the
United States, financed through both public and private capital, creating millions of
new jobs. This effort will be guided by two core principles:
buy American and hire American. AMY GOODMAN: On Monday, the White House indicated
the Trump administration plans to advance its infrastructure package via special budget
rules that would permit it to pass with a simple majority vote in the Senate. On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Sean
Spicer said Trump will hold an infrastructure meeting with mayors and governors around the
country Thursday, while former FBI Director James Comey is testifying before the Senate
Intelligence Committee on Russian interference in the 2016 election. During Tuesday’s press conference, a reporter
asked Spicer about Democrats’ objections to Trump’s infrastructure proposals. REPORTER: Let me ask about infrastructure. Chuck Schumer, just a little while ago, called
the infrastructure plan “an investment bank infrastructure plan, a Goldman Sachs plan.” He said, “It is a sure loser here in Congress”—his
words. Are you guys willing to commit more than the
$200 billion—the federal government—to potentially meet Democrats whenever a bill
comes forward to try to get that across the finish line? PRESS SECRETARY SEAN SPICER: Well, look, I
think that the American worker and our infrastructure are the president’s priority. And it’s putting people back to work, establishing—fixing
those roads and bridges, that allow our economy to thrive and grow. He’s talked—the president, that is, has
talked about the impact of, you know, broken bridges and bad roads—have an impact on
the economy and the people—the ability to—people to deliver goods to market. So he’s going to create that public-private
partnership that assures that we maximize dollars, that we put people back to work and
get—get things done. And you saw that yesterday in the air traffic
control proposal that he put forward, where you had union support, you had bipartisan
support, because the president’s approach at this is that of a businessman. AMY GOODMAN: While White House Press Secretary
Sean Spicer said Trump has the business skills required to revitalize the aviation industry,
Trump’s own airline venture failed less than three years after it began. In the summer of 1989, Trump launched Trump
Shuttle. He was ultimately forced to give up the airline
after a series of costly missteps. Well, for all of this, we go to Washington,
D.C., where we’re joined by Paul Hudson, president of Flyers Rights, the largest nonprofit
airline passenger rights organization in the country, operating a hotline for passengers,
publishing a weekly newsletter, serving on the FAA’s Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee. Paul Hudson, welcome to Democracy Now! What is it that President Trump proposed? PAUL HUDSON: Well, it sounded good. But, unfortunately, I would have to agree
with most of the critics. It’s very unlikely that it’s going to
improve air service for the average consumer. The idea of taking a public monopoly and making
it into a corporate monopoly may, in a weird budget way, look better on paper, but I’m
afraid it’s unlikely to work. Furthermore, the main reason for this is to
bring in what’s called NextGen or to modernize air traffic control. Well, that’s already about three-quarters
done. The last report from the FAA said that they
would be finished with it by 2020, and this proposal isn’t supposed to phase in until
at least 2020. It appears also that if this were to go forward,
it would actually slow the process down. So I really don’t understand it. There are many reasons for air traffic problems
and for delays that people experience, but the operation of the air traffic control system
is really a very minor one. AMY GOODMAN: You know, he was really mocked
for what he did on that day. I’m looking at a Time magazine article. The headline is “President Trump Just Held
a Signing. He Had Nothing to Sign.” And it says, “After announcing his goal to
privatize the nation’s Air Traffic Control System, President Donald Trump sat down at
a desk on Monday and signed two documents. There was only one problem: He wasn’t actually
signing something that would have any tangible impact on what he had just proposed.” Now, explain why it had no teeth. “A White House aide told reporters Trump had
signed a ‘a decision memo and letter transmitting legislative principles to Congress,’ surrounding
the privatization of [the] Air Traffic Control [system], which he had just spent the last
few minutes advocating for. But in order for [his] goal to come to fruition,”
Time magazine writes, “Congress would need to pass legislation implementing it.” PAUL HUDSON: That’s correct. And the House passed some legislation like
this previously, and it died in the Senate. The Senate, on a bipartisan basis, through
the Senate Finance Committee, has criticized this proposal. And in the House Ways and Means Committee,
it has bipartisan criticism. This is a—the kernel of it, anyway, is a
proposal by the airline lobby, and particularly Chairman Shuster, who heads the House Transportation
Committee. But it doesn’t have a lot of support outside
of the airlines themselves. AMY GOODMAN: So, explain. This—what he wants to do is separate air
traffic control from the FAA, from the Federal Aviation Administration. What does this mean? PAUL HUDSON: Well, it means there would be
a corporation, allegedly nonprofit, set up. It would have a board of directors. Initially, all eight of them are to be selected
by Secretary Chao. The two big airlines—excuse me, two of the
seats would be reserved for the big airlines. The pilots’ union would get a seat. The union for air traffic controllers would
get a seat. General aviation, airports each get a seat. And the DOT gets two seats. There is nothing in there for consumers, for
passengers, for public interest people at all. And what we think will probably happen is,
as happened in other situations, the fees will go up, and they will be lobbed on the
consumer. Right now, it was revealed a few weeks ago
at a hearing that much of the modernization is in place on the ground. But the reason it’s not being implemented
is because the airlines haven’t invested in the equipment for their planes. And apparently they’re looking to pass that
over to the consumer. AMY GOODMAN: So what about safety? You’re talking about prices would go up. And then, what about safety of the airlines? PAUL HUDSON: Well, the proposals call for
the FAA to continue to be the safety regulator. But separate from that, we’ve seen now the
industry is proposing over 500 appeals of existing aviation safety rules. In fact, there’s a meeting tomorrow on it
that I’m supposed to attend. And if all these were to go through, or even
most of them, it could gut the whole safety regime that has made U.S. aviation the safest
in the world. AMY GOODMAN: I mean, Paul Hudson, are they
saying that he wants the very airlines that dragged a doctor down the aisle, broke his
teeth and his nose, bloodying him as they dragged him down United Airlines’ aisle,
they want these companies to run the air traffic control? PAUL HUDSON: Well, in fairness, the president’s
proposal waters down the airline control somewhat, whereas the Shuster proposal gave them an
absolute majority. But really, if you’re going to give billions
of dollars of air traffic control infrastructure to a private company, be it profit or nonprofit,
it has to have—a majority of the members need to be the people that paid for it and
the people that use the system, not the people with their fingers in the pie. AMY GOODMAN: Have other countries tried this,
like Canada, Switzerland? And what’s been the result? PAUL HUDSON: Yes, they have. And the results have been mixed. The British, their proposal involved the government
owning about half of it and private investors half of it. It nearly went bankrupt after 9/11. And the Canadian system also needed a bailout
at one point. The only thing that we can say that might
be somewhat helpful here is you can have perhaps better planning for capital investments. But the Senate Finance Committee, the House
Ways and Means Committee and the Appropriations Committee, they could fix that problem in
a month if they would settle down and actually do it. AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about GPS versus
radar? PAUL HUDSON: Yes. Well, radar, of course, keeps track of airplanes
in the sky and then guides them to landings and to takeoffs and prevents, along with some
other equipment, midair collisions. GPS is the heart of a new system, and it has
some advantages, but it also has some weaknesses. For instance, satellites can be interrupted. There have been tests where these systems
are interfering with military. If there would be a hacking, as apparently
is occurring in some of the airline computer systems, you could lose track of airplanes
that way. So, for at least the time being, you’re
going to need a backup of the radar system. And that’s likely to, in the short term,
make it more expensive, not less. AMY GOODMAN: And the question: Would they
actually maintain that backup if it was going to cost more? And would that make flying more dangerous? PAUL HUDSON: Well, with this proposed corporation,
there really are no controls. This is an absolute necessity for the country. However, there is no limits on what they can
charge. There would be no limits on what the executive
compensation could be. There’s nothing in there about workers,
at least new workers, being protected, about the training and the qualifications. We’ve seen where in other areas, when the
airlines and the industry gets control, they tend to go to the lowest bidder, and they
bid down the wages and the qualifications of the people. AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about Trump’s
own airline and what happened to it. Last year, Democracy Now! visited a popup Trump museum housed on the
sixth floor of an old printing cooperative right outside the Republican National Convention
in Cleveland. The museum chronicled Donald Trump’s various
business failures throughout the years, including his short-lived airline venture, the Trump
Shuttle. One of the mementos in the museum was a plastic
card from Trump’s now-defunct airlines. Museum curator Jessica Mackler explained what
happened to the Trump Shuttle. JESSICA MACKLER: Trump Shuttle was an airline
that Trump bought and ran for a while, until he was forced into bankruptcy, and it—he
kind could have lost it in that period. An interesting anecdote about that is that
he tried to use marble in the bathrooms of Trump Shuttle, until he found out that it
would be too heavy for the plane to fly. AMY GOODMAN: Paul Hudson, can you fill us
in some more? PAUL HUDSON: Well, Mr. Trump bought this from
a bankrupt airline—I believe it was Pan-Am—that had a shuttle running between Boston, New
York and D.C. for years. He tried to luxuriate it. It didn’t work out. But also, another reason was there was a recession
at the time, and other airlines were putting a lot of pressure on this Trump Shuttle. Another factor with the proposal here on Monday
is it has no room for small airlines. And without more competition, we’re going
to see, we think, both rising prices, which we’ve already seen, and we’re going to
see a continuation of bad service. Our view is that we need both reasonable regulation
and more competition. And we proposed a repeal of many of the anti-competition
rules and statutes that have held that whole thing down. AMY GOODMAN: You know, one of President Reagan’s
first major acts in office was to break PATCO, the air traffic controllers’ union. Can you paint for us a trajectory from there
to where we are today and what kind of effect that ultimately had on safety, not to mention
workers’ rights? PAUL HUDSON: Well, the PATCO union went on
strike, and that was illegal at the time. It still is. And President Reagan, instead of negotiating
to end the strike or have some other measures done, he fired all the air traffic controllers. And there was a long period of dislocation
and recovery from that. The controllers have never really forgiven
that, and they apparently feel—we think, wrongly—that they’ll do better under a
new corporation. Supposedly, they will keep some of their government
benefits. Supposedly, they will not be able to strike. But it’s very unclear what will actually
happen. AMY GOODMAN: Well, Paul Hudson, I want to
thank you for being with us and for explaining all of this, president of Flyers Rights, the
largest nonprofit airline passenger rights organization in the country, operating a hotline
for passengers at 877-FLYERS6, publishing a weekly newsletter and serving on the FAA’s
Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org,
The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks for joining us.

41 Replies to “Flyers Rights Pres.: Trump Plan to Privatize Air Traffic Control Could Increase Fees for Passengers”

  1. Privatizing air traffic control is a great idea by Trump. It's called free market. The idea that fees for air travel would increase is nonsense being promulgated by those not desirable of free markets or not knowledgeable about free markets.

    Next step is TSA.

  2. DemocracyNow,. You need a guest with better knowledge of the history of PATCO and Reagan's actions. For starters: not ALL controllers were fired, only those who refused the back-to-work order. That said, it was a significant number and the US ultimately paid hundreds of million (probably more…) to rebuild this highly trained workforce. It was indeed one of the dumbest moves in labour relations history by yet another 'strongman POTUS' with no understanding of the ramifications.

  3. Funnel as much public money into private institutions heading by crony colleagues. Privatize everything, then outsource it. 2018 can't come soon enough, the republican party ought to be out of power for CENTURIES!

  4. Miami-Dade, FL is right now in a battle over a push for a massive increase in domestic SURVEILLANCE flights. People should look at what Erik Prince (Blackwater mercenary group founder) has to do with this…. and be scared but be actively involved right now.

  5. Whenever a public utility is privatized the quality of service declines rapidly. Forget costing more. I expect plane crashes to spike due to air traffic controlling errors.

  6. so basically the🙈 Airlines are going to become as s*****💩 if not worse as the MTA lines in New York. wow ~T_T~thank you mr. dumbass Trump.ˇ▂ˇ

  7. the four most important people in the Airline industry are the Engineers, the Passengers, the Airtraffic Controlers and The Pilots

  8. The election of Donald Trump should remind us — again of the vast difference between managing a company and running a government. The Government is not a business.Government is about this thing called the "public interest." There is no such animal in the private sector.

     Thus, accountability is by necessity much broader in government; it is much more difficult to ignore particular groups or people. Private-sector performance is measured by profitability, while performance measurement in government needs to focus on the achievement of outcomes.Compromise is fundamental to success in the public sector. No one owns a controlling share of the government

  9. Wait until Winter comes. I'm glad I don't fly. My suggestion would be to take out a lot of insurance when you fly.

  10. As a private General Aviation pilot, I will say that if this goes through, due to safety, I will no longer be flying into or through controlled airspace. I will find smaller, non-controlled airports near wherever I need/want to go.

  11. He is doing the same exact things as Reagan, so the same things can be expected to happen. Stock market crashes, and major recessions after lots of war and scandals.

  12. What this means is any mafia freak, who rapes his kids, can set up an air traffic controller company and take over the air traffic completely in their territory with no regulations. Right now, the light fountains have to work around not running into planes. This way, gangs and organized criminals can completely take over an area including the air space.

  13. This speech is pure Republic/1% clap trap. Privatization of Air Traffic Control would make the system more costly, less safe, and less efficient. No, the private sector does not do everything better than government, this is pure 1% propaganda to further their agenda. We have tried this since 1980 and although having worked very well for corporations and the 1% it has not worked so well for the 99%, it transformed our economy to one resembling the 19th century.

  14. Donald Trump wants to spend $1 Trillion on an "Infrastructure Boondoggle?!" My question is what most aren't allowed to ask, Where does a Government that is $20 Trillion in a cesspool of debt get the audacity to spend another $1 Trillion that it doesn't have?!

  15. Ralph Nader has been a political shit bag for decades. He is not exactly the go to guy for good ideas or sound advice.

    Currently ATC is a mess, why exactly is it a bad idea to get things brought up to date (technology) and to reform regulations that are a currently causing most of the problems?

    (Saying it is going to cost more is the height of stupidity, since anything the government does for "free" ends up costing a lot more than if we just paid out of pocket for it.)

  16. The extraction of America's wealth continues! Putin and Bernie Madoff would be proud! Putin extracted 200 billion from his country and hides it in havens. Placed his children and their spouses in all top executive positions or entitlement positions at top energy companies of Russia! Hello to our template forTrumpism!

  17. yeah… private companies running airport security worked real well, huh, right-wingers? You must be WITH the terrorists, right-wingers! lol, traitors.

  18. Trump speaks with the eloquence of….. well I was going to say a 5 yr old… but I know a lot of five year olds and they're definitely smarter than the president.

  19. …dragged a doctor down the aisle…? He was out of control, drug addict, abused his position as an MD by coercing a male patient into a sexual relationship, a doctor who lost his license to practice after frequent violations of the agreement after being convicted on several accounts (with crimes related to medical practice), then practiced without a license for years afterward. He delayed the take off more than an hour with his fits of rage, putting everyone behind schedule, many missed flights and meetings as a result. The crew attempted to get him off the plane over an hour.

    Paul Hudson is a sensible man, who lost family members on Pan Am Flt. 103, and co-sued Libya with my uncle in the 1990s.

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