Newswise — The following comments by Wichita State University airline quality expert Dean Headley, explain how the government shutdown affects air travel.

    1. Passenger volumes are increasing, both domestically and internationally. The current air travel system’s ability to accommodate passengers is already stressed. Without pay, some TSA workers have chosen to be “sick”. This certainly limits the volume of passengers that can be screened and ultimately adds congestion to the flying experience. At some point the passengers will simply not want subject themselves to that frustration and choose not to fly.
    2. As we have seen, the air traffic controllers are also impacted by the shutdown. With fewer of the controllers reporting for work, the capacity to handle scheduled flights is reduced. Last week we saw the result of this with the closing of New York’s La Guardia Airport. In the interest of safety, it seems prudent to close an airport rather than try to “make do” with a reduced and over taxed control tower.3.
    3. Consider this from a wholistic view. Airlines sell seats. Passengers intend to fly. They go to the airport to find long checking-in lines or canceled flights. If their airport and flight is still operating, they have longer lines at TSA screening points. If they get through that in time to make their flight, they may not have an on-time departure due to air traffic control congestion. This is only at the point of departure. They still must fly to their destination and land which brings another air traffic control circumstance into play. This creates unhappy and frustrated passengers and flight crews. This scenario is repeated across the entire country and as the day goes on gets worse and worse due to the cascade effect of canceled flights and schedule delays. For a variety of reasons, this is not a good time to fly.4.
    4. On the brighter side, if this frustrated travel is keeping people away from flying it means lower volumes in the system. Lower traveler volumes may mean that the system might actually be able to handle the various challenges that fewer personnel might put on it. Because our air travel system is reliable and safe, travelers usually do not give much thought to the possibilities of how it can go wrong.
    5. Best take away from all of this might be a more thoughtful and engaged air traveler. Hopefully people will stop to think about how they use the air travel options available to them and how they can be better, less frustrated, more in control passengers. Going forward with a more knowledgeable passenger base can only help the airlines and customers.  
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    Contact: Dean Headley, co-author of the National Airline Quality Rating from Wichita State University, at 316-648-8570 or [email protected]