San Diego

Air Travel Unions Sound Alarm on Public Safety As Shutdown Continues

Three major air travel unions are sparing no words about the government shutdown, and some workers say the dog fight in Washington is putting the flying public at risk.

While in action, air traffic controllers are dialed in. They have their eyes glued to a number of screens as they weave planes around each other on the ground and in the sky.

And as they walk into work every day of the shutdown, without pay, they pass a warning sign that reads in part, “This faculty is used in FAA air traffic control. Loss of human life may result from service interruption.”

Air traffic controller Tyler Kennard the shutdown situation isn’t taking steps toward improvement.

“I'd say they've gotten worse, especially at work. The morale is really low,” Kennard said.

“It's actually more stressful now with this whole government shutdown than it was when I was in a warzone in Iraq doing the same job,” the retired Marine who now works at Montgomery Field said.

In a statement released Wednesday, unions representing air traffic controllers, flight attendants and pilots sounded the alarm.

"We have a growing concern for the safety and security of our members, our airlines and the traveling public due to the government shutdown,” a joint statement read.

Citing staffing shortages and overwork, the groups added: "We cannot even calculate the level of risk currently at play."

At San Diego International Airport where TSA officers continue to work without pay, officer and union leader Ron Gerber says anxiety is growing as well.

“Morale is so down now,” he said.

An email sent by local TSA management obtained exclusively by NBC 7 sheds light on local shutdown policies.

All planned vacation was canceled and officers could be considered AWOL if they try to take that leave.

“It's terrible,” Gerber said. “It's causing much more stress than it should. They should be there saying, we feel your pain, let's see what we can do to help.”

TSA leaders did not respond to NBC 7’s request for comment.

While Kennard and Gerber insist they will still come to work to protect the flying public, the frustration is grating.

“The longer the shutdown happens, the worse it's gonna get.”

Meanwhile, the airport says there's been no impact on travelers so far.

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