FAA Funding… The question not asked

In an unprecedented display of efficiency, Congress passed emergency legislation giving the FAA the ability to divert funding for air traffic control. This was in response to countless flight delays across the country. The delays are a direct result of the recent budget sequestration that forced the FAA to furlough air traffic controllers. According to one report airline employees went on the PA system to announce to waiting passengers that the delay was caused by budget cuts!

So what I’m wondering is why hasn’t anyone considered having the airlines pick up the tab for air traffic control? Why do tax payers foot the bill? This is a service that directly benefits those that are flying. The costs could be easily be distributed amongst the airlines based on the number of passengers. Of course the airlines would pass these costs on to the passengers, but that would just be the cost of flying. No different from jet fuel or maintenance.

I understand the need for the FAA to remain an autonomous organization. There clearly would be a conflict of interest if the airlines were running the organization responsible for maintaining air safety. But I don’t see a reason why airlines can’t pay the bills.