Mandatory budget cuts at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) caused by sequestration could cause more than 6,700 flight delays per day at 13 of the nation’s biggest airports starting this week. Affected airports include JFK, LaGuardia and Newark in the New York area; Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco in California; O’Hare and Midway in Chicago; Miami and Fort Lauderdale in Florida; Atlanta; Philadelphia and Charlotte.
The mandatory across-the-board budget cuts kicked in when GOP members of Congress would not agree on alternatives to sequestration. The FAA will be forced to furlough air traffic controllers for one day per two-week pay period starting Sunday, April 21 and lasting until September 30, 2013. Sequestration rules leave little room for FAA administrators to avoid furloughs in critical staffing areas such as controllers.
“This is a dumb idea,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said of the spending cuts. “It’s a meat-axe approach. Congress needs to fix it.”
The cutbacks in controllers will lead to flight delays and cancellations throughout the nation’s air travel network, affecting nearly one-third of the more than 23,000 daily flights and more than twice as many on days with storms or other disruptions. The FAA plans to hold planes in ground stops at originating airports or force aircraft to take longer routes to their destinations.
“Misguided spending cuts threaten to disrupt the entire airline industry and for no good reason,” said IAM Transportation General Vice President Sito Pantoja. “It’s going to cost jobs and millions of dollars in delays. Congress needs to correct this mess before it does real damage to our economy.”