Travel Industry Responds to FAA Sequester Furloughs

airplaneAs more airports across the United States are experiencing flight delays and cancellations because of furloughs by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) due to the sequester cuts, industry groups are calling on the government to resolve the situation.

In addition to the delays on April 22, 2013, which affected airports in New York and Philadelphia, more airports are bracing for delayed and cancelled flights today due to furloughed air traffic controllers. USA Today reports that, thus far, there have been more than 50 cancelled and 124 delayed flights, with the airports most affected being New York La Guardia, Fort Lauderdale in Orlando, Tampa, Denver, New York JFK, Miami, Charlotte and Chicago Midway.

Airline trade group Airlines for America (A4A) has filed a motion with the U.S. Appellate Court for the District of Columbia to halt the furloughs, arguing that air traffic controllers are too critical to travel safety to furlough, and that the FAA should shift the 10 percent cuts required by sequestration to less essential personnel.

“Air traffic controllers have never been furloughed, regardless of any budget cuts, and there is a reason for that—they are critical to maintain the safety and efficiency of the National Airspace System,” said A4A President and CEO Nicholas E. Calio in a statement on the A4A website. “We continue to believe that the FAA has other means to reach a 10 percent budget reduction than to impact the traveling public. When a company needs to make a 10 percent budget reduction, the answer is not to make it is so inefficient that no one wants to do business with it anymore. That’s essentially what the FAA is proposing, and in doing so harming the 2 million passengers and shippers that fund two-thirds of its budget.”

Calio also noted that the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration had made cuts without furloughing frontline employees.

Reuters reports that the court has denied A4A’s request for an emergency stay, but has set out a preliminary schedule for hearing the case.

“The underlying lawsuit is alive and well,” Victoria Day, A4A spokesperson, told Reuters.

The Global Gateway Alliance, an advocacy organization for New York City-area airports, has also called on the government to end the furloughs. “With Newark, LaGuardia and JFK already experiencing the longest delays in the country, furloughing local air traffic controllers will without a doubt have a significant negative effect on our economy — leading to a decrease in tourism and revenue for our local businesses, hotels and restaurants," said Joseph J. Sitt, chairman of the Global Gateway Alliance.

Similarly, the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) has published an open letter to FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta to express concerns over the travel delays’ impact on the overall economy.

“Our nation's economy and businesses will pay a very steep price that significantly outstrips savings produced by furloughs,” said GBTA Executive Director and COO in the letter. “GBTA represents nearly 6,000 business travel buyers and sellers who spend $270 billion annually on air travel.  Face-to-face meetings facilitated by a safe, efficient air transportation system mean U.S. businesses will remain top competitors in the global marketplace, growing the economy and creating jobs.”

The full text of the letter is available here.

Keep visiting for further updates on this developing story.