Unexpected tax holiday could start at midnight

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - There has been so much focus on the debt crisis deadline, that another deadline has crept up on us.

If Congress can't come up with a solution by Friday at midnight, what we'll be looking at is a boon for airline travelers and another blow to the federal government.

Airlines may lose the ability to collect federal tax on tickets...meaning you could get some great deals.

But your potential gains will come with some serious losses for the government and Federal Aviation Administration employees.

About 4,000 FAA workers - whose jobs are funded with ticket tax revenues - would be furloughed.

And the government will start bleeding $200 million dollars a week.

Here's what's going on.

House Republicans and the airline industry want to make it more difficult for airline workers to unionize, and they want to eliminate government subsidies for airline service to some rural airports.

Senate Democrats say both items are unacceptable.

But the two provisions were built in to a long-term FAA funding bill earlier this year, so now the whole package is stalled. Without it, the FAA will freeze, and its taxes will disappear from ticket-selling web sites at midnight tonight.

Today, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood stressed that airlines and airports will still operate as normal, no matter what, but clearly he's not happy.

"This is no way to run the best aviation system in the world," LaHood said during a press conference. "Congress needs to get to work."