How the Sequestration Could Negatively Impact Travelers

by on February 25, 2013 · 22 comments

in Travel Industry

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Budget cuts – also known as sequestration – currently set to take place in Washington on March 1 (Friday!) could mean significant flight delays for U.S. travelers, though the hope is that these cuts can be averted in time to save a lot of these airport nightmares from taking place.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood warns of massive flight delays.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood warns of massive flight delays.

In a press conference at the White House last Friday, February 22, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood noted that these sequester cuts, approximately $85 billion sliced from current budgets including those of the FAA, would lead to nationwide flight delays as control towers adjust by using smaller staffs. Worse yet, as many as 100 small airport control towers at (such as those in Boca Raton, Florida and Joplin, Missouri) could be shut down entirely. The crux of LaHood’s message, “Travelers should expect delays.” The FAA currently operates more than 400 airport control towers.

While the budget cuts are set for March 1, their impact would be delayed by internal staffing reductions and likely wouldn’t be felt by consumers until April. Once they begin, however, LaHood suggests that 90-minute flight delays would be likely in larger cities during peak hours, effects that would quickly ripple across the country.

In a separate warning, the Homeland Security Department noted that these cuts could also lead to longer airport security lines, never good news for the already weary air traveler. My previous tips on how to get through security lines faster may be of more service if that was to become reality.

Expect security lines to get a lot longer if budget cuts go into effect.

Expect security lines to get a lot longer if budget cuts go into effect.

There is hope, however. LaHood noted that his being brought to the White House to make his announcement was a clear attempt to influence Republicans into compromising on a budget deal that would find alternatives to these currently mandatory cuts and avert a crisis. While LaHood’s words have been called a “scare tactic” by many in the GOP, the former Republican congressman noted this morning that he was merely outlining the risks involved in letting these budget cuts take place – not as a scare tactic, but as a “warning flare.”

Today, LaHood expressed confidence that a deal would be reached this week while talking with MSNBC. “I’m optimistic about this,” LaHood said. “I just think there’s an awful lot of shared pain that’s going to take place on March 1st if this sequester goes in. I don’t think anybody wants that to happen.”

So what can you do? Write to your members of Congress expressing your opinion – loudly. Email, call, tweet and voice your thoughts. Who knows if any of that will make a difference in the currently toxic political environment, but at least you will have registered your doubts and taken a stand for when the next election cycle occurs. Who knows, though, it might just take round-the-block lines at Reagan National and Dulles to open our lawmakers’ eyes.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Andrew

    Is it $85 billion per year or over x years? Also, they would not man the control tower at my airport after some hour at night. That is not a big deal since only about 12 flights land after 9pm. I think remote towers can handle that.

    Personally I think there are a lot of scare tactics going on.

  • Larry Johnson

    TSA is a hopelessly over bloated bureaucracy with many screeners doing mindless work with little to no oversight. I can only imagine the slow down invoked by TSA when the screener who moves buckets around is temporarily furlough!

  • Larry Johnson


  • penncomm

    Write your members of congress??? If my memory serves me, Sequestration was fully supported by the White House (some would say, the proposal originated there). $1 Trillion in cuts spread out over 10 years is…well, fairly insignificant. If we can’t find ways to trim 2 or 3 percent of waste out of government spending then we have deeper issues. Bringing out government officials like LaHood is fear mongering at its worst. Here’s a crazy idea…Write your members of congress and the white house to pressure them to actually present and pass a budget. Then maybe we wouldn’t be faced with a “Fiscal Crisis” every 3 months. Sorry, I know this is a travel rewards blog – but this nonsense drives me crazy!

  • Alan Fowler

    I’m sorry, but I find it hard to believe that sequestration, which will reduce federal spending, in some cases, to pre-Obama Administration levels, and, in other cases, early-Obama Administration levels, will have such allegedly dire impacts on air travel. My disbelief is compounded by the fact that President Obama recently signed $300 billion of tax increases into law for 2013 – a reduction of $85 billion in spending can hardly hurt. Incidentally, President Obama agreed to sequestration and, under the ground rules of sequestration (approved by him), the President gets to decide where to cut – Congress only tells him how much. So, maybe you’re pleas for a settlement should be directly to the President. Or, maybe we should recognize the alleged impact on air travel as just a ploy of one side of the larger spending/ tax debate that is happening in this country.

  • Chris B.

    Instead of operations and ATC salaries, I suggest he cut this program temporarily:

    Federal Aviation Administration FY 2013 President’s Budget Submission



    i. Reduced Carbon Emissions, Improved Energy
    Efficiency, and Reduced Dependence on Oil
    Subtotal – 22,234

    ii. Reduced Transportation-Related Pollution and
    Impact s o n Ecosystems
    Subtotal – 439,259

    Total – Environmental Sustainability 461,493

    Page 26

    In reality, it is all about what the administrators want to cut, vice what they need to. Cutting ATCs would be a choice by the Secretary, and I hope he and the executive department is held responsible for such poor decisions, given other options exist.

    - Chris B.

  • Alan Fowler

    I forgot to say, though, that I appreciate you always staying on top of issues/ news related to air travel.

  • davep

    A bunch of lies designed to scare the public into accepting more spending and more taxes. There is actually no money cut from today’s budget. The cuts will come from the growth in the next budget, if Congress would actually pass a budget. Even with the sequester there will be more money spent next year than this year which is more than last year. Whenever a politicin says “Cut” they don’t mean an actual reduction in what is being spent but a slightly smaller growth in the rate of increased spending.

  • Oldsmoboi

    I wonder if getting GlobalEntry and therefor TSA Pre would help speed things along at least in terms of the security process.

  • ih

    This site should be limited to travel-

    Please do not bring politics in to the mix.

    We all got a 2% haircut on our paychecks starting 1-1-13 & we are making do. We don’t like it but we are trying to make ends meet & it has not led to a disaster by itself yet

    the Gov’t should be able to do the same – The 85billion is less than 2% of the 3.5 trillion economy. This should not lead to the disasters that OBOZO is talking about.

    It is called scrare tactics.

    Again I reiterate – is your blog travel related or political scare party related?

  • thepointsguy

    This is not a political post- it’s simply conveying information that could impact travelers. I even mentioned in the post that many believe this is a scare tactic, but the bottom line there is a possible negative impact on travelers and people should be aware of it

  • thepointsguy

    TSA Pre and Global entry have saved me countless hours bypassing crazy security and immigration lines. Highly recommend them, sequester or not!

  • Dave

    The only politics I see are from people like you in the comments section.

  • Deb

    If cutting control tower and TSA staff is the only transportation budget line the Transportation Secretary can find to cut, we need a new Transportation Secretary.

  • ih

    read his post again – “So what can you do? Write to your members of Congress expressing your opinion – loudly. Email, call, tweet and voice your thoughts. Who knows if any of that will make a difference in the currently toxic political environment, but at least you will have registered your doubts and taken a stand for when the next election cycle occurs. Who knows, though, it might just take round-the-block lines at Reagan National and Dulles to open our lawmakers’ eyes.”

    sounds political to me

  • Dave L

    His opinion is that this will cause trouble for airlines. It’s not a political opinion, it’s his personal opinion, and there’s every reason to believe he knows more about this field than most people.

    Now if he said something about the republicans using sequestration as a tool that would be political. Without getting too political myself, you can’t accuse a man of taking a political position just because he takes a common sense position… in this case it’s that sequestration could cause trouble for travelers.

  • Ekkthe

    The airline tickets we buy include a tax to pay for TSA. This is big government trying to make everyone feel pain, as a means of blackmailing the American people into more taxes and spending.

  • M m

    Who cares … MAke the dammm cuts and lets move on. Delays lol…

  • M m

    The number of TSA agents standing around doing nothing when I fly is insane. CUT the man hours now

  • ih

    There is no issue here or any reason to call congress – a small 2% cut should not have any significant impact on travel.

    We have all had a small cut & tightened up a little.

    So if we waited 22 minutes on line until now with 12 tsa agents doing garbage, we will now wait 23 minutes & 33 seconds with 11 TSA agents doing garbage.

    unless, the Democrats use the sequestration as a tool & cause massive disruption to travelers & other Gov’t services so they can then blame Republicans.

    No need to call & The Points Guy is professional & should look at the issue professionally, not through the scare tactics that democrats are using.

  • Dave L

    Actually sequestration was initially used as a tool by Democrats and is now being used as a tool by Republicans. Those aren’t opinions, they are pretty well established facts. The opinion is whether it’s right to use it as a tool. If you think TPG is wrong about this affecting your travel, then don’t call. Not everything is a Democrat trying to attack you.

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