What happens if air-traffic controllers come down with COVID-19?
Share Now on:
The airline industry is asking for a huge government bailout to help it deal with the enormous decline in travel due to COVID-19. The $2 trillion recovery package that the Senate passed late Wednesday night includes $25 billion for airline workers’ “salaries and benefits,” among other funding.
But there’s another issue the industry has to cope with: What if air-traffic controllers get sick? If there were a major COVID-19 outbreak at one of the centers that direct and monitor planes for large chunks of U.S. airspace, the effects could cascade through the system.
Coronavirus cases have already been reported in a handful of air-traffic control facilities across the country, including Chicago Midway International Airport on March 17.
As captured by LiveATC.net, the control tower closure limited the airport’s operations for a week while it was cleaned.
Ian Petchenik, of the global flight-tracking service Flightradar24, said controllers are among those who can’t work from home. “You’re working in close quarters with a variety of people on different shifts,” he said.
In a statement, the Federal Aviation Administration said every facility has a contingency plan. However, aviation safety expert Ashley Nunes, a senior research associate at Harvard University, said the plans are really about landing flights safely on short notice.
“The goal of these plans isn’t to ensure that operations continue as though nothing is going on,” Nunes said.
But the reduced demand for flights should ease the pressure on the air-traffic control system, for now.
COVID-19 Economy FAQs
With a slow vaccine rollout so far, how has the government changed its approach?
On Tuesday, Jan. 12, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced changes to how the federal government is distributing vaccine doses. The CDC has expanded coronavirus vaccine eligibility to everyone 65 and older, along with people with conditions that might raise their risks of complications from COVID-19. The new approach also looks to reward those states that are the most efficient by giving them more doses, but critics say that won’t address underlying problems some states are having with vaccine rollout.
What kind of help can small businesses get right now?
A new round of Paycheck Protection Program loans recently became available for pandemic-ravaged businesses. These loans don’t have to be paid back if rules are met. Right now, loans are open for first-time applicants. And the application has to go through community banking organizations — no big banks, for now, at least. This rollout is designed to help business owners who couldn’t get a PPP loan before.
What does the hiring situation in the U.S. look like as we enter the new year?
New data on job openings and postings provide a glimpse of what to expect in the job market in the coming weeks and months. This time of year typically sees a spike in hiring and job-search activity, says Jill Chapman with Insperity, a recruiting services firm. But that kind of optimistic planning for the future isn’t really the vibe these days. Job postings have been lagging on the job search site Indeed. Listings were down about 11% in December compared to a year earlier.
As a nonprofit news organization, our future depends on listeners like you who believe in the power of public service journalism.
Your investment in Marketplace helps us remain paywall-free and ensures everyone has access to trustworthy, unbiased news and information, regardless of their ability to pay.
Donate today — in any amount — to become a Marketplace Investor. Now more than ever, your commitment makes a difference.