Travelers could have to cover 20-29 percent higher costs if the U.S. moves to a private ATC organization.

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 (ATC) organization funded through “user fees,” according to a new study released today by Delta Air Lines.

“Proponents have claimed that privatization would lead to cost savings for consumers,” the study stated. “But no evidence has yet been produced to show that privatization would reduce costs. In fact, nations that have privatized ATC have seen operational costs increase at a much higher rate than has been seen in the US under the FAA.”

See USA Today Op-Ed by Delta Capt. Steve Dickson, Senior Vice President – Flight Operations.

The study, which is a compilation of data from various independent reports, reviewed the ATC fees associated with a privatized model in Canada and the United Kingdom and found that after the first six years of privatization, Canada saw an additional 59 percent increase on ATC-related fees. In the United Kingdom, ATC fees rose 30 percent. The study also included examples of extreme tax increases, and outlined how a privatized, revenue-based system could result in ATC resources being prioritized at larger airports to raise greater revenue, to the detriment of smaller regional airports across the country.

Canada and the U.K. have faced similar challenges in ATC privatization – one cited is that ATC costs are growing at larger rates in both countries compared to the United States that uses a public system.

Delta has long held that removing the Air Traffic Organization, which provides air navigation services across the U.S., out from under FAA’s safety oversight is a bad idea for several reasons. Capt. Steve Dickson, Senior Vice President – Flight Operations, has outlined how moving to a privatized model would threaten customer service while not addressing structural issues that will always exist and affect the U.S. airspace, such as the proximity of high-volume airports in the Northeast.

“Delta agrees that improvements to our current air-traffic control system are needed.” Dickson said. “Great progress has already been made on this front through years of research and implementation of NextGen technologies and operational capabilities, and we need to focus on continuing this momentum. Any effort to separate the ATO from the FAA will create a distraction that will set back these efforts for years.” 

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