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Congress Ends Air Traffic Control Furloughs…Until September

by on April 26, 2013 · 23 comments

in Travel Industry

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Well it looks like after all the political posturing over the air traffic controller furloughs brought on by “sequestration cuts” that Congress is finally getting its act together and has approved a bill that will end the furloughs and should keep the air traffic control system operating normally…at least until September 30.

Hopefully air traffic will get back on schedule quickly.

Hopefully air traffic will get back on schedule quickly.

The House passed its bill this morning while the Senate unanimously passed an identical bill last night – just in time for them to adjourn for a weeklong vacation and avoid air traffic delays on their own way home to districts, unsurprisingly enough. It might have been out of self-interest, but at least something got done.

It’s not that Congress has resolved the overall $85-billion sequestration cuts. Rather they just did some creative accounting and shifted about $250 million from other parts of the Department of Transportation to the FAA.

Although some government officials were predicting delays for up to 6,700 flights a day, the total tally of delays solely related to staffing issues for the day on Wednesday was 863, mostly at high-traffic airports in New York, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Dallas and a few other cities. That’s compared to over 2,100 delays because of bad weather and other issues the same day. On Tuesday, the numbers were 1,025 delays because of staff shortages and 975 from other causes. Monday’s numbers were 1,200 furlough-related delays and 1,400 weather-related ones.

That didn’t stop airports and airlines from blaming the delays on furloughs, however, with frequent announcements over airport and plane PA’s and urges to write to members of Congress to act.

Although the larger issue of sequestration is still a major problem facing the US government, this air traffic issue-within-an-issue highlights just how political these events really were with lawmakers practically holding the traveling American public hostage to their own political brinkmanship agenda. Adding insult to injury, Congress members let their constituents suffer through a week of delays and only acted when their own travel plans would be impacted.

I’m glad to see the air traffic situation resolved – for a few months, at least – but I’m frustrated with Congress’s actions and I bet a lot of other people are too. Were your travel plans impacted by the furloughs this week? Did you or do you plan to write to your Congressional representatives to share your opinion?

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  • Matt

    The President hasn’t signed the bill yet, and there’s no guarantee he will, so this isn’t over yet…

  • John K

    I have NEVER seen such incompetent government stalemate. Bunch of kids whining about not getting their political agendas across, and use these low, deviant, tactics to stall each other at the cost of everyone. I was never happy with the government in the past, but at least it RAN one direction or another. If government had shareholders, the president and ALL of congress would be jobless, months ago, if not years.

  • Really

    Despite the fact that this is a travel blog, the post almost sounds like a suggestion to contact the Republican congress and tell them to be reasonable on Sequestration and agree to the spending and tax increases that the Obama administration wants.

    If you lean liberal, that is “ok”, everyone has a liberal friend or two. However, if you are going to talk about budget matters, you should take some time to educate yourself on Baseline Budgeting. Simply put, under Baseline Budgeting, the CBO projects the costs of current laws assuming a rate of inflation. Since program costs tend to increase over time, outlays are projected to increase for the next 10 years based on those estimates. A “cut” in baseline budgeting is a reduction in the growth of spending. If fact, both sides of the aisle make these fantastic claims about cuts in their budgets when actually, spending goes up all 10 years of their plan. The Sequester reduces the growth of spending minimally, but year-to-year spending is expected to increase for the foreseeable future.

    If you check my comments, you can go to straight to the source. http://www.CBO.gov.

  • zbird

    Contra “Really” I want to commend TPG for addressing the FAA furloughs in a classy and well-balanced manner. TPG is being careful to keep his personal politics to himself, as he should–there are plenty of political blogs but the TPG audience isn’t here for politics. At the same time, he’d look like a complete prick if he only whined about flight delays without even acknowledging the massive suffering that the sequester is causing (or about to cause) in non-travel related areas.

    I don’t think Really would be satisfied unless TPG’s post regurgitated Republican talking points.

  • Really

    Incorrect. If he had blasted both the Administration and Congress for playing politics with this issue, then it would be balanced and I would have agreed with it. A plague on both of their houses.

    Second, I am suggesting he go straight to the CBO for his info, rather than rely on political operatives on either side.

    Finally, I suggest you learn what Baseline Budgeting. The Republicans are just as guilty of this trick as the Democrats.

    But generally, I wish he would leave politically charged topics alone. This is a Travel Blog.

  • zbird

    Last I checked there were both Democrats and Republicans in Congress.

  • Really

    If TPG wants to make a political post, it is his blog. No skin off of my nose. I’m done here.

  • MrWho

    Hahaha, typical of this congress. Let’s not the solve the problem now. Let’s drag it all the way to 2014.

  • thepointsguy

    This isn’t a political post on one side or the other- I think the posturing has been on all sides. I’m also wary of the actual funding cut allegations, which is why I put cut in “”. Bottom line is that I hope the delays go away and I think these moves will lead to the end of needless delays, whether they were political stunts or not.

  • thepointsguy

    As Zbird said I blamed all politicans.. not just Republicans, Democrats or the few independents out there

  • thepointsguy

    Correct, but hopefully a couple steps closer to being over!

  • Really, One More Post

    Then I can conclude you also blame the Administration for the FAA problems. Cool

  • Really, One More Post

    I love your blog. It has made my life much better. Because of it, I have traveled to Dublin, First Class on Singapore Air to Singapore, Business First and to Hong Kong and Japan, collected over 700,000 FF and hotel points over the last two years (on personal travel only), upgraded my hotel status to Silver (Marriott), Gold (Hilton), and Gold (SPG) even though I do not stay much in hotels. In my recent trip to Japan, I used free room promotion your blog informed me of to stay two free nights at the Nagoya Marriott (best hotel in Nagoya and it was Category 4) and was got a free upgrade, access to the lounge, and free breakfast at the Hilton due to the Hilton Gold. In fact, I never would have made IK last year without your blog..

    My post was not meant to let you know how some people might interpret your post. Consider it feedback. After all, even people from that right side read your blog. Also, it was meant to challenge you to think about Baseline Budgeting. I live in New York city and about 90% of the people around her are hard core Democrats and they are always in my face. That is why, I could not resist a zinger about “liberals”, but I should have.

  • Really, correction

    Typo, “My comment was meant to let you know how some people my interpret your post.”

    Also, socially I am liberal.

  • Really

    Can you please remove all my posts under the name “Really…” On my trip home, I have decided that they are inappropriate for a travel and points blog. Thanks.

  • Garrigan

    If the government had shareholders, it would be the same – just look at all the CEO’s who got bonuses after their companies lost money – if a shareholder objects, they are labelled “rogue”

  • Garrigan

    I think your point is well taken – it’s just that people get annoyed whenever the word “Congress”, or “government” is used in context…

  • jmw2323

    of course right after my I completed my 24 hr ORD-LGA-ORD.
    2 hours late in each direction

  • Carl

    wrong, this was Obama’s doing.

  • Carl

    wrong, this was Obama’s doing.

  • Charles Clarke

    As another conservative, I didn’t read his post as being anti-right, just anti-political posturing. And, while I think both the right and left have been practicing brinkmanship here, I think the right has gotten more of what they want by letting the sequestration happen. Need to have that cuts in pay double for each level up and increases in pay halve for each level up. Then maybe our congresspersons would get their act in gear.

  • Charles Clarke

    Re-reading the post, I see he did use “Congressional representatives” in the last sentence which could be taken to be the House of Representatives instead of House and Senate, but I don’t think he meant it that way.

  • Really

    Since my posts are still around, despite the fact I asked them to be removed, I will answer this.
    (1) There are 2 players here, the FAA controlled by the Administration and Congress which is made up of the Senate and House. TPG did not mention the Administration, so by implication he blames the Congress. So, for the sake of this conversation, let’s assume the Administration has zero role and eliminated them from the conversation.
    (2) The Senate is controlled by Harry Reid. [As Zbird sharkily pointed out, there ARE Democrats in Congress.] As a Democrat, Reid is in alignment with the President and would like to repeal the sequester. Since many Senate Republicans are “walk across the aisle” types, Reid could easily obtain agreement in the Senate to lift the sequester for some revenue enhancements and some face saving measures.
    (3) Both the Senate Minority Leader McConnell(R) and House Speaker Boehner(R) would like to rework the sequester in a “grand bargain” for “revenue enhancements.”
    (4) Remembering that we have assumed that the Administration has zero role, that puts the cross hairs directly on the so-called “evil right wing extremist” that do not want to raise taxes or spending.
    (5) To be clear, based on the logic above, ONLY blaming Congress for the sequester puts the onus directly on the right wing of the Republican party, whether or not that is what TPG intends.

    @Zbird, Hello, Hello, is anyone home. The right wing does not take its direction from Boehner or the Republican National Committee so this could not possibility be “regurgitated Republican talking points.” Logic man logic.

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