Sequester Furloughs Causing Delays at Airports

While almost everyone love cheap fares, whether cheap airplane tickets, cheap vacation packages, or discount travel packages, they tend to be frustrated by extended delays once they arrive at airports. That frustration grew on April 21st as airports reduced air traffic controllers on duty by 10 percent across the country.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported delays of over an hour for flights in New York as well as other major airports. Delays of up to 3 and hours are expected at some airports, according to the FAA, as the agency cuts spending to satisfy reductions required under federal budget cuts.

New Yorks LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy airports experienced delays of over an hour, and the furloughs also resulted in delays at the Philadelphia international airport.

Los Angeles International Airport reported an almost two hour delay at 10 pm and Newark Liberty International Airport was running 28 minute late on average.

The only good news on the first day of the furloughs was that relatively good weather throughout the country and light traffic helped minimize air traffic delays, according to the FAA.

Most of the reported delays were the result of the FAA having to start furloughing its 47,000 employees, including almost 13,000 air traffic controllers who manage the countrys airspace.

Currently the furloughs are expected to last through the end of September which is the end of the U.S. fiscal year. Forecasted savings from these furloughs are $200 million. The FAAs budget for the fiscal year is $16 billion, of which $637 million must be cut.

Between 1,200 to 1,500 controllers who normally would be working will be staying home each day on average. Some airports may be able to shift staffing to reduce the impact of the furloughs. American airports handle about 25,000 flights per day.

Experts believe that the 10 percent reduction in control tower staffing could result in as many as 6,700 flights delays per day. This compares to a maximum of 3,000 delays in a single day in 2012 during severe weather.

The most likely delays and cancellations are expected to be seen at the countrys busiest airports, many of which already operate at or above capacity during peak periods. Potential worst case scenarios identified by the FAA include delays of over three hours at Atlanta Hartsfield and 50 to 80 minutes at New Yorks airports.

Delays at individual major airports could quickly spread across the country due to ground stops, where planes are kept on the ground at originating airports because there are no gates at their destinations.

Some experts contend that the best way the FAA can deal with its furloughs is to not reduce controllers at its busiest airports, and shift a disproportionate amount of the cuts onto smaller airports.
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