Flight attendant union leader says a second shutdown would trigger 'crisis'

The head of a flight attendants union said Monday that the aviation system would "immediately be in a crisis" if Congress fails to reach a deal and the U.S. government goes into another partial shutdown. 

“We already stretched the system to a breaking point before, this would be day 36 on Feb. 16 and we would immediately be in a crisis, and so we are making sure that doesn’t happen,” Sara Nelson, the president of the Association of Flight Attendants, told Hill.TV’s Krystal Ball and Buck Sexton on “Rising.”

Nelson’s union, which represents nearly 50,000 flight attendants around the country, is currently planning demonstrations in major airports around the country on Saturday, and she said many federal aviation workers are prepared to strike.

“If we are in a situation where we’re not safe and not secure, we cannot go to work in those instances,” she told Hill.TV.

Congressional funding negotiations appeared to stall over the weekend after lawmakers hit a wall negotiating over the number of beds that can be funded in border detention facilities.

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Nelson warned that if lawmakers aren’t able to reach a budget deal by Friday’s deadline, no one would “get out unscathed.”

The union head estimates that about 20 percent of air traffic controllers are currently eligible for retirement, and if they put in their retirement immediately, it would mean that an estimated 50 percent of planes would be grounded as a result. 

“Let’s think about the impact of that on flight attendants jobs, pilots jobs, all of the aviation workers," Nelson told Hill.TV. "Eleven million people who work in aviation, but no one would get out unscathed." 

The previous partial government shutdown that took place over December and January left an estimated 800,000 federal workers furloughed or working without pay.

The closure also had an impact on air travel. During the record 35-day shutdown, some airports, including Houston’s George Bush International Airport, had to close terminals due to staffing shortages.

—Tess Bonn