Flight delays likely as US shutdown hits airports

  • 17/01/2019

There are fears the US government shutdown could take a major toll on the aviation industry.

New Zealand's Air Line Pilots Association president Tim Robinson says some will quit while the US government remains deadlocked over a budget disagreement.

"If you can't attract people into the industry to replace [quitting staff], that's certainly going to have an effect on the safety of the industry as a whole within the United States."

The current government shutdown was triggered by the two parties' inability to reach an agreement over the President's proposed wall along the US-Mexico border.

It's now the longest shutdown in the country's history, with thousands of government employees forced to work with no guarantee they'll be paid. Others, including kitchen staff at the White House, have been granted furlough - a temporary leave of absence.

On Saturday (local time) President Trump tweeted the government would be "out for a long time unless the Democrats come back from their 'vacations' and get back to work".

Mr Robinson said people are working unpaid to keep the aviation industry afloat during the shutdown, and there are high sickness rates among staff.

Having fewer people in the role could lead to flight delays, which Mr Robinson said could roll on over a few days.

"If there are manning shortages and they have to shut down air space or they have to shut down facilities at airports over the next few days, that is going to have an effect."

But what's worrying is the effect on safety standards.

"Heaven forbid there's an accident or an incident that occurs because standards are lowering."