Air Traffic Control Needs An Upgrade, But It’s Airlines That Should Pay

Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian is echoing calls by United CEO Scott Kirby for

Delta used to oppose state subsidies – for Boeing via the Export-Import Bank, when they were only Airbus, for Gulf airlines except the ones they partnered with. They’ve supported subsidies for Delta however.

And with taxpayer pockets wide open to U.S. airlines throughout the pandemic they’ve had even more of a change of heart. Bastian has even called whether they should be open to supporting government subsidies for Middle East carriers “an interesting question” now that they’re so fond of taxpayer cash themselves.

In 2021 Bastian made the argument that Delta was investable because of a Congressional put – that “governments will be there for us if ever needed again.”

But taxpayer subsidies aren’t the right way to handle funding needs of the FAA. It’s not surprising that airline CEOs don’t want user fees, they want more money to provide services for their flights but they do not want to be the ones to pay for it. They’d rather get government subsidies than pay the cost of upgrading air traffic control.

However a consistent and predictable revenue stream is precisely what the FAA needs to make technology upgrades, and there’s no reason why these should be paid by the non-flying public. Indeed, airline passengers skew higher income, why redistribute from the median taxpayer upwards when the benefits of a better air traffic control system are concentrated on those who can easily be asked to pay?