FAA Warns Of Reduced Air Services, Delays From Possible Budget Cuts - Business Travel News

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FAA Warns Of Reduced Air Services, Delays From Possible Budget Cuts

February 22, 2013 - 02:35 PM ET

By Jay Boehmer

The Federal Aviation Administration is bracing for sweeping air service reductions and anticipating flight delays should no deal be reached to forestall automatic federal budget cuts set for March 1.

Those cuts include about $600 million from FAA's fiscal year 2013 expenditures. FAA on Friday indicated that it was preparing to shutter as soon as April more than 100 air traffic control facilities at small airports, cut overnight shifts at more than 60 additional airport control towers, reduce "preventive maintenance and support for all air traffic control equipment," and furlough through the end of the fiscal year most of its 47,000 employees "for approximately one day per pay period."

In the event of such measures, "travelers should expect delays," according to a letter sent Friday from Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and FAA administrator Michael Huerta to such airline organizations as Airlines For America and the National Business Aviation Association. "Flights to major cities like New York, Chicago and San Francisco could experience delays of up to 90 minutes during peak hours because we will have fewer controllers on staff."

President Barack Obama also has warned of the impact on the aviation system. In remarks on Feb. 19, he said automatic spending cuts would mean that "air traffic controllers and airport security will see cutbacks, which means more delays at airports across the country."

U.S. Travel president and CEO Roger Dow feared cuts would extend further. "Travel has the very real potential of becoming the face of the March 1 sequester cuts," according to a statement Wednesday. "These across-the-board cuts may punish travelers with flight delays, long security lines at Transportation Security Agency checkpoints and multi-hour waits to clear Customs and Border Protection."

Airlines For America senior vice president of safety, security and operations Dan Elwell during a press briefing Thursday shared a shred of optimism. "We urge and expect that whatever happens will not significantly impact our air travel system," he said. "It's too important."

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