Congress Ends Air Traffic Control Furloughs…Until September

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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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