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Friday, July 22, 2011 - 12:16pm

FAA Shutdown Could Mean Travel Savings

Congress did not extend funding for the Federal Aviation Administration Friday.

Passengers at Georgia airports won’t see delays or flight cancellations this weekend. But travelers could save some money.

FAA officials said 336 employees in Atlanta could be impacted, but planes will continue to take off and land at Georgia airports this weekend, including Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson International Airport, the world’s busiest.

That’s because air traffic controllers are essential employees who can’t be furloughed.

But with the FAA’s authority lapsed, airlines don't have the authority to collect government taxes on plane tickets.

Steve Lott is with the Air Transport Association. He said a lapse also affects the taxes passengers paid for tickets they bought before the shutdown.

“If you purchased a ticket, say, a month ago, and you traveled on Saturday or over the weekend or anytime during the lapse, you as a passenger are actually owed a refund on taxes paid because the service is performed during that lapse, during that period,” Lott said.

The partial FAA shutdown does not affect airport or airline employees. It also does not impact the safety of air travel because inspectors and safety workers will remain on the job.

The ongoing battle over funding for the FAA is affecting some key airport construction projects, however.

The Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport, for example, hasn’t received $8 million in matching funds from the FAA, says Patrick Graham, the airport’s executive director.

“We’ve got two major projects underway, which we are doing for an expansion with Gulfstream Aerospace," Graham said. "We’re moving a road, building a tunnel, building a taxiway and all this stuff. The project is underway. But we haven’t gotten any funding this year at all, because of Congress’s inability to pass a bill.”

Graham says because Congress has only been approving stop-gap funding for the agency, the FAA regional office hasn’t dispersed funds for the projects.

A spokesman for Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson International Airport said a lapse in the FAA’s authority won’t affect the airport’s operations or construction projects.