Yesterday was the first day of implementing the sequester furloughs, but today will be the major test for flight delays.
As of Sunday, all 47,000 FAA staffers and 15,000 airport controllers were subject to furloughs; all staffers will be furloughed for one day out of every 10 work days. The furloughs are one way that the FAA is working to slash $637 million from its budget.
Yesterday delays due to lower staffing were spotted that evening in New York’s John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports where there were more than 70-minute delays for planes landing, and around 30 minute delays for take off. The FAA posted a notice on late Sunday night that staffing cuts created delays of more than three hours for flights arriving at Los Angeles International Airport. The FAA’s website also noted additional delays at Philadelphia, Orlando and Westchester airports.
This is just the start of the impact of the sequester. The FAA warns that these cuts could cause delays and affect nearly 7,000 daily flights at more than a dozen major airports in the U.S with up to 210 minutes of delays at some airports.
On Sunday, ground-delay programs begun, which required planes to hold at their origin airport until landing space opens up at their destination. Ground delays will impact at least seven major airports, affecting about 3,800 flights—including John F. Kennedy , Newark, Los Angeles International Airport and O’Hare. It may also affect 6 other large airports, including those in Atlanta, Miami and San Francisco, impacting another 2,900 flights.
Additional travel delays from the Sequester:
Some of the small airports that are being closed have been used for diverted traffic when large airports have too many incoming flights to handle. This would no longer be an option, which could mean delayed landings and takeoffs. If you rely on one of these smaller airports, you may have to scope out others near you for convenient flights.
Cuts to the midnight shift will mean that selected airports can no longer have later incoming flights, restricting airlines and passengers in their travel times.
Less preventative maintenance can mean more possible breakdowns, since minor issues will remain until they become a serious problem.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has already stated that budget cuts have led to waits of up to 4 hours for passengers coming in from overseas.
Airlines are most likely in the process of adapting their schedules by changing times and cancelling flights, but you may want to look for flights during off-peak times. Unfortunately, red-eye flights may not always be an option, so you’ll have to settle for the next best thing.
By Lily J. Kosner and Stephanie Ervin for PeterGreenberg.com