UPDATE: As air traffic controller furloughs begin, flight delays hit LAX

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UPDATE 8:10 a.m.: Long waits that plagued travelers Sunday at Los Angeles International Airport seem to have eased Monday morning.

LAX spokeswoman Sherell Palmer says the airport is experiencing a flow rate of 68 flights per hour - which includes both arrivals and departures.

Palmer says this is not an abnormally low rate for LAX.

On Sunday, about 70 flights at LAX had delays of about an hour or more.

The Federal Aviation Administration's website says arrival and departure delays Monday morning are averaging 15 minutes or less at LAX, San Diego International Airport and San Francisco International Airport.

Budget cuts that kicked in last month forced the FAA to give controllers extra days off. The agency says planes will take off and land less frequently to avoid overloading the remaining controllers.

Los Angeles World Airports, which operates LAX and other airports across Southern California, issued the following statement Monday morning:

"As I am sure you are aware, we here at LAX do not have control over the flow rate of aircraft into and or out of LAX, that is the responsibility of the FAA."
 
"Los Angeles World Airports is very concerned about the impacts air traffic controller furloughs could have on our passengers. The furloughs, implemented in response to budget cuts mandated by sequestration, could cause significant delays and inconvenience for passengers that use LAX, as well as the broader community that we're dedicated to serve."
 
"Capacity and delay analyses conducted by the FAA's Air Traffic Organization (ATO) indicate that these furlough cuts could cause significant disruptions to the National Airspace System (NAS) and flight delays, particularly during periods of inclement weather. We are especially concerned about the impact of the furloughs during the peak summer travel season."
 
"Like we do when significant inclement weather or storms threaten the region, we will use our irregular operations plan.  We will be actively monitoring flight delays and cancellations in consultation with our airline partners and standing by to assist them in taking care of delayed passengers."
 
"As of this morning, we are experiencing a flow rate of 68 flights per hour, arrivals and departures.  That is not an abnormally low rate for LAX.  The rate is dynamic and can change for example, due to weather and or cancellations elsewhere."

UPDATE 6:23 a.m.: Some fliers headed to Los Angeles International Airport were met with long delays on the first day of staffing cuts for air traffic controllers because of government spending reductions.

The Federal Aviation administration said on its website late Sunday that cuts are causing delays averaging more than three hours for flights arriving LAX.

The agency did not say how many flights were affected.

Airport spokesman Marshall Lowe says about 70 flights had delays of about an hour or more Sunday, but could not say the role staffing played.

Delays are expected to get worse Monday

Budget cuts that kicked in last month forced the FAA to give controllers extra days off. The agency says planes will have to take off and land less frequently to avoid overloading the remaining controllers.

PREVIOUSLY: On Sunday, furloughs begin for air traffic controllers around the country, part of the Federal Aviation Administration's attempt to cut $600 million from its budget.

The cutbacks are part of the federal sequester, which is hitting a swath of agencies that depend on federal funds.

At LAX, three fewer air traffic controllers are scheduled to work Sunday, said Mike Foote, the local representative for the National Association of Air Traffic Controllers. Usually 11 work the day shift, 11 the swing shift, and 2 overnight. Instead, there will be 2 fewer on the day shift and 1 less worker on the swing.

The overnight shift, he said, won't be touched.

"That'd be a bad idea," Foote said.

But Foote, among others, is not so keen on any of the cuts. 

On Friday, in a statement, LAX's Deputy Executive Director Jacqueline Yaft said the airport is "very concerned about the impacts" of the furloughs, which "could cause significant delays and inconvenience for passengers."

An FAA analysis of the furloughs determined that "significant disruptions could occur," particularly "during periods of inclement weather."

On Friday, an airline industry group filed a lawsuit to halt the furloughs, but that case has not yet been heard. 

Meanwhile, federal officials have said furloughs are unavoidable. Speaking to CNN in February, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said no cuts would be taken that would compromise safety, but air travel may slow.

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