FAA Furloughs Began Sunday, Flight Delays Possible Monday

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) furloughs quietly went into effect on Sunday, and the cut in the number of flight controllers is expected to cause some delays on flights departing Monday. There wasn’t much of a problem on Sunday, thanks to a combination of good weather and relatively light Sunday air traffic.

However, late Sunday night, Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) spokesman Marshall Lowe said that 70 flights had delays of over an hour. And there could be more delays possible today, so flyers are advised to check with their airport to see if they are being asked to arrive earlier than usual.

Airline trade unions including the Air Line Pilots Association filed suit against the FAA on Friday to block the flight controller furloughs, saying that potentially one out of every three air passengers might be delayed. However, the hearing will be held sometime this week — after the FAA furloughs have already begun.

In any case, the FAA has already replied that federal budget cuts mean they’re legally required to furlough nearly 15,000 air traffic controllers. Their mandate says that they must cut $637 million from their budget.

Monday may prove to be an unwise day for air travel worldwide, since it also coincides with a one-day strike against German’s largest airline, Lufthansa, which has already cancelled over 1,700 flights.

Travel blogger “View from the Wing” Gary Leff is an outspoken opponent of the air traffic controller cuts, stating outright that he thinks the FAA furloughs are being used to manipulate passengers into taking sides on the sequester debate.

According to his numbers, it’s possible that the FAA could have cut its budget invisibly. Leff calculated that the FAA handles 27 percent fewer flights than before the 911 terrorist attacks — yet they operate with a 41 percent higher budget.

The politics of the federal budget aside, the FAA furloughs mean that flight delays are possible.

[Lufthansa airplane photo by Lasse Fuss via Wikipedia Commons]