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Impact on aviation contributed to movement on shutdown negotiations

Posted at 3:42 PM, Jan 25, 2019

The White House had been meeting and communicating with transportation agencies including the Department of Transportation to discuss the impact of the shutdown on commercial aviation, information that contributed to Friday's deal to temporarily end the government shutdown, according to a source familiar with the discussions.

The White House recently was given a stark portrayal for what would happen as it relates to commercial aviation if this shutdown continued, the source said. Then the White House saw it play out in real time Friday morning with air traffic control staffing issues causing massive delays in several northeastern airports.

The source adds that Friday's staffing issues with air traffic controllers and shortage of Transportation Security Administration officers was a "contributing catalyst to ending this shutdown for both sides" of the negotiations.

The White House was concerned about the economic impact of a significant disruption within the national airspace system, including the commerce it supports, the source said.

Flights at LaGuardia, Newark Liberty International and Philadelphia International airports were delayed Friday morning, some by as long as 86 minutes, according to the Federal Aviation Administration . Orlando International and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International airports also saw delays, the agency reported.

Paul Rinaldi, president of NATCA, the air traffic controller union, said the union does not "condone or endorse any federal employees participating in or endorsing a coordinated activity that negatively affects the capacity of the National Airspace System or other activities that undermine the professional image and reputation of the men and women we represent."

The union had warned this week that an extended shutdown could impact air travel.

"Many controllers have reached the breaking point of exhaustion, stress, and worry caused by this shutdown. Each hour that goes by that the shutdown continues makes the situation worse," Rinaldi said in a statement.