WASHINGTON: Air travel at risk of sharp decline - Business - MiamiHerald.com: "If Congress and the White House fail to deliver a deal on spending and taxes, funding for an array of federal transportation programs could suffer. But the bigger impact could result from an economic downturn that reduces travel and transportation demand. A Fitch Ratings report last month warned that the fiscal cliff would drive the U.S. economy into a new recession and unemployment back to 10 percent. In 2009, domestic and international travel declined 5.3 percent from the year before, and Fitch forecasts that it could decline as much as 5 percent next year if the fiscal cliff triggers a broader downturn. The aviation system would face a huge slowdown with potential cutbacks in operations and personnel, but air travel also would decline in a slowing economy. Highway and transit spending depends on the federal gasoline tax, and that would decline if Americans cut back on driving. Lower demand for consumer goods would hurt trucking companies, freight railroads and port operators. Meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration would face a mandatory $1 billion budget cut that could result in fewer air traffic controllers and more delays for the implementation of NextGen, the advanced aircraft guidance system that replaces decades-old technology. The Transportation Security Administration would be required to cut more than $500 million, which likely would lead to fewer security screeners and air marshals, resulting in longer lines at the nation’s airports. . . ."
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