JetBlue CEO: Air travel is nearing a 'tipping point' because of the government shutdown

TSA worker government shutdownA Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) worker looks on as passengers pass through security at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, on January 24, 2019.NDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images

JetBlue's chief executive had some of the strongest words yet about the government shutdown's impact on air travel on security screeners, air traffic controllers, and other federal aviation workers.

The airline's day-to-day operations have "not seen a significant impact" its bookings or operations yet, Robin Hayes told investors and analysts on the JetBlue's fourth-quarter earnings call.

However, "we are close to a tipping point, as many of these employees are about to miss a second paycheck," he warned.

That became reality on Friday as hundreds of thousands of federal workers missed their second paycheck thanks to the partial government shutdown that's now on day 35 with no end in sight.

Transportation Security Administration workers, perhaps the most public of federal aviation workers who have been working without pay, have been calling out of work at an increasing rate in recent weeks. Over the Monday holiday this week, the absence rate hit a record-breaking 10% - or more than 3,000 employees - compared to the usual 3.1% from the prior year.

That's caused wait times at some airports, including Atlanta where millions of football fans will flock for the Super Bowl next weekend, to swell.

"Our crew members and customers are likely to face extended security lines, flight delays, and even cancellations," Hayes said. "And the longer this goes on, the longer it will take for the air travel infrastructure to rebound."

Behind the scenes, air traffic controllers, already understaffed and overworked, have also been working without pay. Despite small shows of support from Canadian counterparts in the form of pizza, many federal workers - ATC staff included - have been heading to food pantries as they attempt to make ends meet without an income.

The union that represents ATC employees this week issued a dire warning over passenger safety.

"We cannot even calculate the level of risk currently at play, nor predict the point at which the entire system will break," leaders said.

"Our nation's leaders must find a resolution to this stalemate today," Hayes said. "We will be closely monitoring the events and will provide any updates if needed."

Lapsed food benefits for millions, courts system on the brink, and the potential for recession: other effects of the shutdown

Read Business Insider's full coverage of the shutdown here.

{{}}
Subscribe to whatsappSubscribe to whatsapp
Add Comment()
Comments ()
X
Sort By:
Be the first one to comment.
We have sent you a verification email. This comment will be published once verification is done.