Air Travel Delays to Increase From Ripple Effects of Budget Cuts From Sequestration

In order to comply with the sequestration budget cuts which became effective as of March 1, 2013, air traffic controllers are being furloughed by the Federal Aviation Administration as of yesterday — and FlyerTalk members are starting to experience the effects.

While it is no doomsday scenario, the furloughs of air traffic controllers may have a significant impact on commercial aviation in the United States in the form of extensive ground delays — especially at major airports.

As a precautionary measure to its customers, the following commercial airlines in the United States have already issued advisories and statements pertaining to this potential impact:

The control tower at Los Angeles International Airport, which is expected to be one of the ten most significantly impacted airports in terms of delays due to the sequestration budget cuts. Photograph by FlyerTalk member Robt760. Click on the photograph for a trip report written by Robt760.

Airlines based in the United States reportedly sought a federal court order to block the furloughs of air traffic controllers, which is expected to affect approximately 6,700 flights and up to a third of all airline passengers in the United States each day.

Should you purchase trip delay insurance in anticipation of the impact which the furloughs of the air traffic controllers may have on your travels by airplane?

I personally believe that the air traffic controllers are being used as pawns in this chess game — a political wrangling of the budget of the United States by lawmakers, as it appears to be an “in-your-face” gesture to American citizens who are expected to be directly impacted by this quagmire, resulting in them being fed up.

It is working — for me, anyway.

Let me go in there to figure out how to wisely use the imposed budget cuts in commercial aviation at the government level. I will bet that I can find plenty of government waste which can be cut with little to no effect on commercial aviation.

Anyone in the federal government of the United States willing to take me up on that?

The problem with that idea is that it would have no impact on American citizens — other than save them taxpayer money — and would force affected government agencies to live within tighter budget parameters.

We cannot have that happen now, can we?

Here is one example of government waste: on the eve of when the sequestration budget cuts were to take effect, the Transportation Security Administration reportedly allocated $50 million to buy new uniforms for its employees.

Gee — has it already been five years since the last time agents of the Transportation Security Administration changed their uniforms?

Fifty million dollars. Whoever made that decision should be fired immediately — especially when there is the possibility that slower screening processing times at airport security checkpoints throughout the United States could occur as a result of the sequestration budget cuts.

I wonder how many salaries of air traffic controllers fifty million dollars would have covered…

…and I am certain that more waste can be found. Cancelling tours at the White House is not waste, in my opinion — but what do I know?!?

For what it is worth, an official of the Transportation Security Administration was “grilled” at a recent hearing by Republican congressional representatives on the use of its budget and its uniforms — reportedly manufactured outside of the United States.

I wonder how much money that “grilling” is costing American taxpayers.

Please do not give me the whole “I do not understand how budgets work” malarkey. If the money comes from the taxpayer dollars of American citizens — whether through income taxes or taxes when purchasing airfare — then I have a right to be angry about this, as part of that is my money.

Hey, politicians: I will go so far as to say that if you had used my taxpayer money wisely in the first place, there would be no need for budget cuts or sequestrations or furloughs.

FlyerTalk member dave1013 — who says that he is a retired employee of the Federal Aviation Administration — posted the following content earlier this morning:

“As a retired FAA employee who was in charge of budget execution in Alaska and the western part of the country for the last twelve years of his career, I was/am a little surprised to observe how the furlough and its impacts are unfolding.
“We came close to being furloughed in February of 1982, following the strike, due to the unanticipated/unbudgeted overtime that accrued as a result of that. But we were “rescued’ at the last minute and the furlough was avoided. That said, air traffic controllers and other safety-related personnel would not have been furloughed. Paper-pushers like me would have.
“In 1995, when the famed Newt Gingrich-Bill Clinton conflict led to a lapse in appropriation, we were sent home but made whole afterward.
“Ditto for the Airports inspectors, et. al., who befell the same fate recently.
“What’s happening now is a whole new ball game, i.e., even the safety-related employees are being required to take time off. But listening to the news and hearing the volume of impacts being felt – IMHO I just can’t see this going on too long. The phones in Senate and Congressmen/womens’ offices are probably ringing off their respective hooks now. How long the situation lasts will, speaking from experience, be a matter of political will.
Stay tuned.

We will, dave1013.
What are your thoughts on this issue?

  1. The FAA is part of the Department of Transportation. The TSA is Homeland Security… You can’t just take $50 million from the TSA (from their uniform budget) and give it to the FAA to operate towers. Its just not that easy…

  2. Of course it is not that easy, bkafrick — nor was I suggesting that that should be the case. It is almost impossible to re-allocate budgeted funds between different departments within a company in the corporate world — let alone the federal government of the United States.
    All I was doing was using an example of how federal funds are wasted in one department of the United States government while they are sorely needed in another…

  3. Ray LaHood is Obama’s Secretary of Transportation. Why does Mr. LaHood, one of Obama’s cabinet members, allow the traveling public to be the subject of childish budget fights?
    I remember a while back when Reagan was in office and the FAA controllers threatened to cause travel delays via a strike. Reagan summarily fired the threatening controllers. The issue swiftly came to an end.
    Isn’t commercial transportation as important today as it was in the days of Reagan’s tenure?
    I like Obama and I voted for him. However, I do not like the fact that he allows one of his appointed cabinet members to do nothing to stop the public being held hostage over a controversial budget fight.
    Obama could intervene but he doesn’t. In the meantime, thousands of passengers are “punished” because so-called representatives cannot agree on a budget fix. Obviously, the present approach to delay flights is a grandstand political maneuver.
    I realize that the pilots’ union and the airlines filed a petition in court to end the problem but why does this situation even exist?

  4. @dgcpaphd
    This is quite different than a strike. Kicking out the striker is not a ground breaking idea. It’s done many times before. However, what do you expect Obama to do when there is simply not enough money to pay salaries and the vast majority of the FAA’s expense are paying their employees? Force the controllers to work for free?
    Furthermore, there is also an argument to be made that Reagan’s decision was very short-sighted and also one of the contributing cause for the delays (beside sequester). The sequester kind of tipped the boat over but the FAA had an existing staffing issue. This is primary contributed to Reagan replacing a large proportion of ATC controller with a young batch which is now retiring. I believe there are over 10,000 positions that needs to be filled in the next 5 years and with the responsibilities ATC’s have, you can’t just grab some bodies off the street.

  5. I published a blog post today about my experiences with the sequester fallout over the past few days. It includes a link where you can send a message to Washington.
    Our leaders don’t seem to understand, or don’t seem to CARE, how much this is costing in lost productivity and wasted time. Such a thing would never happen in Europe or Asia, where they have a better grasp of how vital air travel is to their economies.

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