Airline lobbying soared more than 30 percent in 2017

Airline lobbying soared more than 30 percent in 2017
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Airline lobbying last year soared more than 30 percent compared to 2016, a push that overlapped with a public debate over passenger rights and a White House-sanctioned plan to detach air traffic control from the federal government.

Airlines for America (A4A), which represents most of the country’s major airlines, spent $8.59 million in total on lobbying efforts in 2017, according to a recently filed disclosure form.

That number is a nearly 34-percent increase from the $6.43 million the group spent in 2016.

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Airlines for America spent $2.18 million on lobbying efforts in the final three months of 2017, listing on the form "air traffic control reform" and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization as issues for which it advocated. That number is up from the $1.36 million the group spent on lobbying during the fourth quarter of 2016.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Republicans move to block Yemen war-powers votes for rest of Congress Trump says he's considering 10 to 12 contenders for chief of staff Michael Flynn asks judge to spare him from jail time MORE last year backed a plan to spin off air traffic control from the federal government, something airlines have long pushed for but some Democrats have criticized as unconstitutional.

The endorsement from the president provided hope to the airline industry, though a 2017 House FAA reauthorization bill, which included a proposal to turn air traffic control over to a nonprofit corporation, never came to the House floor for a vote.

A4A’s lobbying spend also soared during last year’s second quarter, which coincided with a public relations nightmare over a viral video that showed a passenger being forcibly dragged off of a United Airlines flight. United is one of the airlines A4A represents.

The video, which created an image crisis for United Airlines, pushed lawmakers to threaten legislative action should the airlines not rectify certain policies.

While Capitol Hill saw an increased enthusiasm for consumer protections last year following the United incident, it’s unclear whether that push will carry over into upcoming reauthorization efforts.

The FAA's current legal authority expires at the end of March.