I try not to be political here. I do have political views, and I am generally not shy about expressing them, but here it should be different. This is the place for musing about things that don’t matter outside the narrow corners of my mind and the keyboard in front of me. But I can’t keep silent about this.
The FAA (or Federal Aviation Administration) performs about the most vital function I can think of. They make sure that planes are able to take off and land. They make sure that planes can fly though the sky without crashing into each other. They make sure that airports are safe and secure. Putting your life into the hands of a for-profit airline could be a scary thing, but with the FAA around, nobody gives it a second thought.
The FAA, being a government agency, relies on funding that comes in the form of taxes charged to the airlines on flight tickets. Nobody especially likes payig taxes, but when you go up into the sky, the person who tracks your plane had better be adequately compensated. Maybe I don’t always have the happiest person on earth guiding my plane, but I don’t want somebody who’s disgruntled on the job, either. But that’s where we now find ourselves.
Workers are furloughed, meaning they can’t work and won’t get a paycheck. Construction work has stopped. And the only reason planes are flying at all is because the President is forcing air traffic controllers to keep working. There’s a recipe for disaster if I’ve ever seen it.
But that’s not what the crime is. Not even close. The crime is how the airlines are making out during this crisis. The FAA typically collects taxes on all flight tickets sold. Since they are in shutdown mode, they can’t collect those taxes anymore. So the airlines, conveniently enough for them, have raised their fares and pocketed the difference. The money that the air traveler normally would pay to fund the government agency that keeps them safe is now being diverted into the airlines’ pockets. They hope that the public doesn’t wise up to this, but they must also know that most won’t do anything to alter their travel plans even when they do find out.
I rarely fly anymore. A flight to New York this summer was the first flight I’ve had since 2005. So the airlines aren’t making off with my money. But they are effectively swindling it from thousands of hard-working people right now. I hope they (the airlines, not the travelers) suffer mightily from the negative karma they are creating by their actions. I hope that airplane fuel rises so high that they declare bankruptcy and come running to the government’s bankruptcy courts to bail them out (it’s happened before, you know). I hope their losses mount up, and the shareholders don’t get the returns they want, and the CEOs are reduced to groveling for government money in order to survive.
The airlines are actively and deliberately earning all of this animosity. They could give the extra tax revenue back to their customers, or at least explain why they’re keeping the money for themselves. But no, that would be honorable, and this matter reveals how terribly dishonorable an entire industry can be.
And now Congress, who have revealed themselves as worse than a den of vipers when it comes to making things better in this country, goes away and leaves this matter unresolved until after Labor Day. So if you think you want to fly somewhere for the rest of the summer, please consider if this is really necessary. Do airlines need to take even more of your money? They’re already morally bankrupt, and hopefully they’ll become financially bankrupt soon enough. So why help to buy them even a little bit more time?