Delta is the only major U.S. airline that is opposing a plan from House Republicans to separate the nation's air traffic control system from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
The proposal, which calls for the creation of a new nongovernmental organization that would take over air traffic control from the FAA, has created divisions in the airline industry at a time when lawmakers are debating a new aviation funding measure.
Delta has said the independent air traffic control proposal would amount to a privatization of the nation's flight navigation system, which the company has said will result in higher air fares for U.S. passengers.
"We oppose privatizing U.S. air traffic control or any other attempt to remove air traffic control from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)," Delta's Senior Vice President of Flight Operations Capt. Steve. Dickson said in a statement.
"The current U.S. ATC system is safer, has fewer delays and is more cost effective than any privatized or separated ATC alternative in the world," Dickson continued.
Most other U.S. airlines are supporting the proposal to separate air traffic control from the FAA.
“A more efficient system with proper governance, funding and accountability will bolster our nation’s first-rate safety record and result in more choice, more direct trips, lower fuel consumption, reduced emissions and fewer flight delays," said Airlines for America President Nicholas Calio, who represents most major carriers besides Delta.
"We share [House Transportation Committee] Chairman [Bill] Shuster’s goal of seeing more air traffic controllers hired, making our system even safer, and most importantly, making flying better – and at no additional cost – for the traveling public," Calio continued.
Backers of the proposal to separate the nation's air traffic control from the FAA have said that creating an independent organization to oversee flight navigation would modernize the U.S. aviation system, bringing it line with countries like Canada that have set up similar non-profit agencies.
“The United States has led the world in aviation since pioneering this modern mode of transportation. We have the safest system in the world, and we will continue to do so under this bill,” said Rep. Bill ShusterWilliam (Bill) Franklin ShusterLobbying firm cuts ties to Trent Lott amid national anti-racism protests Ex-Rep. Frelinghuysen joins law and lobby firm Ex-Rep. Duffy to join lobbying firm BGR MORE (R-Pa.), chairman of the transportation committee. “But our system is incredibly inefficient, and it will only get worse as passenger levels grow and as the FAA falls further behind in modernizing the system.”
Democrats quickly assailed the plan, vowing to put forward “targeted amendments” to the bill that would address the “real problems” at the FAA.
Rep. Peter DeFazioPeter Anthony DeFazio'Design-build' contracts key to infrastructure success EPA closer to unveiling plan for tackling 'forever chemicals' Congress sends 30-day highway funding patch to Biden after infrastructure stalls MORE (D-Ore.), the transportation committee’s ranking member, said the proposal would “tear apart aviation programs, risk unnecessary duplication and complexity, and ultimately cost money for taxpayers and travelers.
“This privatization proposal gives a private corporation the power to tax the American public to pay for safe operations, and it hands over a public asset worth billions of dollars to a private corporation for free,” he said.
Other aviation groups in Washington that represent non-commercial flight operators have also mobilized against the plan to separate air traffic control from the FAA.
“NATA cannot support the legislation’s proposal to create a federally chartered, not-for-profit air traffic control corporation,” National Air Transportation Association President Thomas Hendricks said in a statement.
“A user-fee funded ATC corporation, controlled in perpetuity by a board of industry insiders, will place general aviation in constant peril, starve rural America of access to cutting-edge technology, and saddle the traveling public with ever increasing fees,” he continued.
Delta's Dickson agreed, saying "uprooting the current system would do nothing to modernize our airspace.
"Separating ATC operations from safety oversight to address funding challenges is reckless, and we believe the more that is known of the details of this proposal the more opposition it will face," he said.
Lawmakers are scheduled to mark up the FAA bill that contains the independent air traffic control proposal in a hearing that is scheduled for next week.
Updated at 4:55 p.m.