Sen. Chuck Schumer denounced President Donald Trump’s proposal to privatize the United States air traffic control on Sunday, saying the commander-in-chief has his “head in the clouds” on the matter.
Schumer emphasized the move would hit consumers hard in the wallet at a time when a monopoly of the skies by a handful of airlines is only increasing.
“Fees will go up, seat size will go down, and they’ll charge you more and more fees,” Schumer said. “The more power the airline companies have, the worse it is for middle-class consumers.”
Last week, Trump proposed his plan to sign over the operations of air traffic control, which is handled by the Federal Aviation Administration, to a private corporation controlled by airline executives by 2019.
The move would take 30,000 FAA employees off the federal payroll. Trump said the privatization would modernize the air traffic control system and would be a step in the right direction for decreasing delays at airports across the country.
Schumer conceded the system has its issues and indicated he would support alternative solutions, but maintained privatization would only hurt consumers.
“If the president wants to improve air traffic control, that’s great,” Schumer said. “Invest some dollars and let’s get the GPS system moving more quickly, let’s force the ATC to move more quickly and the FAA to move more quickly.”
The FAA has faced technological and funding issues over the years for a variety of reasons.
However, Schumer also warned of the security risks of privatization, saying that there would be no guarantee that the ATC would cooperate with the government in the event of an emergency.
Trump has faced pushback from both sides of the aisle, with senators from smaller states, like Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), voicing concerns that it would hurt airports in rural areas.
The initiative was introduced by Republican Rep. Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania in February 2016, but the legislation ultimately stalled on the House floor. President Bill Clinton also voiced support for the idea early on in his time in office.