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Furloughs in Flight

Just like the government warned a few months ago, air travelers have started experiencing delays caused by forced federal spending cuts. According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), about 400 delays in the system this weekend were attributable to staffing reductions resulting from the furlough. And this past Monday afternoon, all three New York City-area airports reported delays for all incoming flights, in part because fewer air traffic controllers reported for duty as they were forced to take unpaid time off, according to unions and airline trade groups.

The furloughs kicked in for 47,000 FAA workers, including 15,000 air traffic controllers and it’s only just the beginning. The FAA must cut $637 million from its budget by the end of September, part of some $85 billion of automatic, across-the-board spending cuts that kicked in on March 1. Workers have to take a total of 11 days by September and must take off at least one day every two weeks. That means 1,500 controllers could be off a day, or 10% of the workforce.

Since the furloughs are being administered at a local level, the FAA did not immediately have the total number of controllers furloughed nationwide Sunday or Monday. Airlines have been preparing. The nation’s airlines asked a federal court last Friday to block furloughs of air traffic controllers, saying the cuts could delay 6,700 flights daily with passengers waiting up to four hours in some cases. So far, in the midst of all of these Furloughs, people are still able to get to where they’re supposed to be…better late than never.

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