Aviation Unions Warn Government Shutdown Will Likely Cause Mass Flight Cancellations Soon: The System Will 'Crumble and Unravel'

On the 31st day of the partial government shutdown, representatives of two major aviation unions warned that mass flight cancelations could soon occur if the shutdown continues to drag on.

During a CNN segment on Monday, Sara Nelson, the international president of the Association of Flight Attendants, outlined the shutdown's consequences on the country's aviation system.

"If these workers can't do their job, I can't do mine. And these federal workers cannot cash thank you's. They can't. They have stressors on their family. They can't even put a tank of gas in their car to get it to work," Nelson said.

Nelson continued on to assert that "mass flight cancelations" will occur if the shutdown drags on, which will cause the system to "crumble and unravel."

"And as this starts to crumble and unravel, we're going to see mass flight cancelations, we're going to see a system that completely unravels and falls apart," she said. "We will not have private jets taking off to get people to the Super Bowl. No one will be able to get to Atlanta. This is going to have a massive economic impact."

The union leader urged Congress to end the shutdown before things get worse and declared that the country is "less safe and secure" if it continues to drag on.

"We cannot wait for what may happen to us if you do not do that," Nelson said.

Dan McCabe, a spokesperson for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, echoed the same sentiment, saying the aviation industry, already under pressure and understaffed, could soon see staffers walking off the job. "There's no gauge as to where someone's breaking point is at," he said. "Is it one paycheck, is it two paychecks, is it four paychecks? My biggest fear is that as people reach their breaking point that they'll begin to quit."

A partial government shutdown — which has left around 800,000 federal employees either working without pay or furloughed — began last month after Trump declined to sign a stop-gap measure designed to keep the government open through to February. The shutdown continues to drag on due to a stalemate between the president and congressional Democrats over $5 billion worth of funding to construct a wall on the U.S-Mexico border — one of Trump's key campaign promises.

Trump proposed a deal to end the shutdown on Saturday that involves exchanging extended protections for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients for the wall and additional border security measures. But before the president even made the official recommendation, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) declined the offer in a statement, calling the deal "unacceptable" and a "non-starter."

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Passengers wait in a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) line at JFK airport on January 17, 2019 in New York City. The longest government shutdown in US history continues and impacts travelling through airport. Getty/Johannes Eisele
Aviation Unions Warn Government Shutdown Will Likely Cause Mass Flight Cancellations Soon: The System Will 'Crumble and Unravel' | U.S.