Trump's Big Airline Decision Could Make Flying More Expensive

June 5th 2017

Thor Benson

Donald Trump announced on Monday that he wants to privatize air traffic control in the United States, and that could affect ticket prices for fliers.

"Today we're proposing to take American air travel into the future, finally," Trump said Monday, also calling the current air traffic control system "antiquated." The Federal Aviation Administration has been working on updating the current radar-dependent air traffic control system to use GPS for years now. 

Trump believes privatizing air traffic control would help it become more modern, because he claims the FAA has failed to update the technology quickly enough. Trump wants a private, nonprofit corporation to run air traffic control, and for the nation's largest airlines support privatizing the system.


People who support privatizing argue government shutdowns and controller furloughs have prevented the updating of technology used by air traffic control, according to ABC. The technology currently used by controllers has barely changed in the last 40 years.

That said, America's air traffic control system is considered to be one of the safest in the world.

"Even with the shortcomings of air traffic management system modernization, the FAA and aviation community have managed to change technology and the air traffic control culture while successfully maintaining the safest, most complex and largest air transportation system in the world," FAA advisor Craig Fuller wrote for The Hill in March. 

The costs

There may be some unintended consequences if Trump does privatize the system. According to a study released by Delta Airlines last year, privatizing air traffic control could significantly increase the cost of flying for consumers.


"Air travelers could be on the hook to cover 20 to 29 percent higher costs if the U.S. moves to a private air traffic control organization funded through 'user fees,'" the study claims. The study asserts that countries that have privatized air traffic control have seen operational costs rise, and those costs get passed along to ticket buyers.

Furthermore, according to the Washington Post, Trump's privatization plan is based on a bill introduced by Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Penn.) last year. The Congressional Budget Office determined the plan laid out in that bill would increase the deficit by $19.8 billion over the next 10 years. Most of that price tag comes from the money that would need to be invested to update current systems, according to Vox

Democrats are not happy with Trump's plan

“Trump's ideas for privatizing Air Traffic Control—which recycle a tired Republican plan that both sides of the aisle have rejected—would hand control of one of our nation’s most important public assets to special interests and the big airlines,” House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.



Many Democrats are claiming that Trump is simply disguising a massive corporate giveaway as an infrastructure plan, and they intend to halt his proposals. 

It seems Donald Trump thinks a private company would be faster and more efficient than the government when it comes to managing our flights, but it also might be more expensive.