Flight Delays Pile Up Monday After FAA Budget Cuts

NEW YORK (AP) —
A China Southern Cargo jet takes off at LAX International airport in Los Angeles Monday. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
A China Southern Cargo jet takes off at LAX International airport in Los Angeles Monday. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

It was a tough start to the week for many air travelers. Flight delays piled up all along the East Coast Monday as thousands of air traffic controllers were forced to take an unpaid day off because of federal budget cuts.

Some flights into New York, Baltimore and Washington were delayed by more than two hours as the Federal Aviation Administration kept planes on the ground because there weren’t enough controllers to monitor busy air corridors.

One out of every five flights at New York’s LaGuardia International scheduled to take off before noon on Monday was delayed 15 minutes or more, according to flight tracking service FlightAware. Last Monday morning, just 2 percent of LaGuardia’s flights were delayed. The situation was similar at Washington’s Reagan National Airport, in Newark, N.J. and in Philadelphia.

Some flights were late by two hours or more.

The furloughs are part of mandatory budget cuts that kicked in on March 1 after Democrats and Republicans missed a deadline to agree on a long-term deficit reduction plan.

FAA officials have said they have no choice but to furlough all 47,000 agency employees, including nearly 15,000 air traffic controllers. Each employee will lose one day of work every other week. The FAA has said that planes will have to take off and land less frequently, so as not to overload the remaining controllers on duty.

Monday is typically one of the busiest days at airports with many business travelers setting out for a week on the road.

Some travel groups have warned that the disruptions could hurt the economy.

“If these disruptions unfold as predicted, business travelers will stay home, severely impacting not only the travel industry but the economy overall,” the Global Business Travel Association warned the head of the FAA, Michael P. Huerta, in a letter Friday.

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