Airlines for America (A4A) president and CEO Nicholas Calio called on the US Congress to pass multi-year legislation reauthorization the FAA, adding that failure to do so would jeopardize the agency’s safety mission, as well as the airline industry’s ability to plan for the long term.

His remarks came during a Sept. 12 speech at the annual A4A Aviation Industry Summit in Washington DC.

“We can’t simply stop and restart our funding,” Calio said. “There have been far too many short-term extensions over the years, and we need Congress to act swiftly, now.”

Calio expressed disappointment over Congress’s inability to pass air traffic control (ATC) reform, a long-time priority for the airline trade group. He said the inefficiencies of the current public-sector ATC system mean that “flights today take longer from point A to point B,” which he blamed on an “antiquated system” and the government’s “dilapidated procurement and product-development processes.”

The A4A chief also hailed the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 for making air travel more accessible and affordable to ordinary people, saying that “we’re now living in the golden age of air travel.”
“Competition is fierce between carriers, and as a result, customers have seen lower fares, more choice and greater competition,” Calio said. Average round-trip airfare, adjusted for inflation and including ancillary fees, is 40% cheaper today than it was in 1980, he added. “You name another product or service that can match that record.”

Calio then criticized what he described as a “block of people in Congress who would like to re-regulate the industry and constantly attempt to do so,” adding that A4A appreciates US Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao’s “efforts to provide some rationality and balance to the manner by which we are regulated.”

“When regulations reach into airline economics and operations, as they did in the 1970s, our customers are the ones who suffer,” Calio said. “So-called consumer rules are often not consumer-friendly, and they impose costs without commensurate benefits. The results are less flights and higher fees.”

With the Senate’s bill to reauthorize the FAA stalled over a dispute about meal and rest hours for truckers—and just  seven working days left before a Sept. 30 deadline—odds are that Congress will opt to pass a sixth short-term extension for the agency. The FAA has been operating on a short-term basis since its last multi-year reauthorization bill expired in 2015.

Ben Goldstein, Ben.Goldstein@aviationweek.com