"We have a growing concern for the safety and security of our members, our airlines, and the travelling public due to the government shutdown… In our risk-averse industry, we cannot even calculate the level of risk currently at play, nor predict the point at which the entire system will break. It is unprecedented", the statement, published on the AFA website, said.
According to the statement, air traffic control facilities are understaffed, while new hiring has been frozen. Air traffic controllers, therefore, "are only able to maintain the system’s efficiency and capacity by working overtime."
The trades union also expressed alarm that major airports were already seeing security checkpoints closed, "with many more potentially to follow."
"Safety inspectors and federal cyber security staff are not back on the job at pre-shutdown levels, and those not on furlough are working without pay … In addition, we are not confident that system-wide analyses of safety reporting data, which is used to identify and implement corrective actions in order to reduce risks and prevent accidents is 100 percent operational due to reduced FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] resources", they added.
Finally, the trade unions urged the Congress and the White House to end the shutdown "immediately," reiterating that an air safety environment was "deteriorating by the day".
The US federal government has been partially shut down since December 22 due to a funding dispute between President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats. Trump has asked Congress to authorize $5.7 billion to build a wall along the US border with Mexico, but Democrats have refused to meet the demand.
As a result of the shutdown, a quarter of the federal agencies had to scale back their activities.