Jan. 24 (UPI) -- Unions representing air traffic controllers, pilots and flight attendants are demanding an end to the government shutdown, saying the "unprecedented" and "unconscionable" impasse could cause the entire U.S. aviation system to break.
The shutdown has forced air traffic controllers, TSA screeners, air marshals, FBI agents and safety inspectors to work without pay for more than a month. The disruption came at a time when staffing levels were already at a 30-year low, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, Air Line Pilots Association International and Association of Flight Attendants aid in a joint statement Wednesday.
"We have a growing concern for the safety and security of our members, our airlines and the traveling public due to the government shutdown," the unions said. "The situation is changing at a rapid pace. Major airports are already seeing security checkpoint closures, with many more potentially to follow."
Safety inspectors and federal cybersecurity staffing isn't at pre-shutdown levels and some are working without pay. Many Transportation Security Administration officers aren't working due to financial hardship and the Federal Aviation Administration is shorthanded. As a result, the unions said they're not confident the safety system is 100 percent operational.
"As union leaders, we find it unconscionable that aviation professionals are being asked to work without pay and in an air safety environment that is deteriorating by the day," the unions' statement said. "To avoid disruption to our aviation system, we urge Congress and the White House to take all necessary steps to end this shutdown immediately."
The unions' demands came amid estimations the airline industry could lose $105 million in revenue over the first month of the shutdown. Much of that comes from government employees not taking work trips.
"In the context of the airlines' total revenue, this is a drop in the bucket," consultant Samuel Engel told The New York Times. "One major storm can cut airlines' revenue more than a month's lost government travel, but a storm doesn't continue month after month."
The shutdown has also interrupted other operations in the industry -- including planned new routes at Southwest, new planes at Delta and new commercial service at a Seattle-area airport.