Airlines and the nation's largest pilots' union are joining forces to sue the Federal Aviation Administration over its decision to furlough air traffic controllers as the result of automatic, across-the-board spending cuts required by Congress.
Two airline trade associations and the Air Line Pilots Association said Friday they have filed a lawsuit asking a federal court in Washington to block the furloughs, which are scheduled to kick in on Sunday.
Industry officials said the FAA could have found other ways to find the savings. The furloughs will reduce the controller workforce by 10 percent through the end of September. They're estimated to save $200 million.
"Air traffic controllers have never been furloughed, regardless of any budget cuts, and there is a reason for that--they are critical to maintain the safety and efficiency of the National Airspace System," Airlines for America president and CEO Nick Calio said in a statement.
"We continue to believe that the FAA has other means to reach a 10 percent budget reduction than to impact the traveling public. When a company needs to make a 10 percent budget reduction, the answer is not to make it is so inefficient that no one wants to do business with it anymore. That's essentially what the FAA is proposing, and in doing so harming the 2 million passengers and shippers that fund two-thirds of its budget."
"These cuts will needlessly disrupt and diminish the capacity of the world's safest, most efficient national airspace system," said Paul Rinaldi, the president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. "No one wants to see these furloughs be implemented, least of all the controllers who want to be on the job, making the system work. We continue to urge policymakers in Congress and the Administration to resolve this issue and keep controllers on the job."
An FAA analysis released this week predicted fewer controllers will mean major delays at some of the nation's busiest airports.