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Tue, Feb 26, 2013

DOT: Sequestration Will Take A Toll On Air Travel

Department Facing A Cut Of Nearly A Billion Dollars

Officials at the Department of Transportation are warning that if automatic budget cuts go into effect March 1st it will have a "serious impact on transportation services that are critical to the traveling public and the nation’s economy."

On its official blog, the department said that it will need to cut nearly a billion dollars from its budget, which will affect dozens of programs. More than $600 million of those cuts will need to come from the FAA – the agency that controls and manages our nation’s skies.
 
"As a result of these cuts, the vast majority of the FAA’s nearly 47,000 employees will be furloughed for approximately one day per pay period until the end of the fiscal year. In some cases it could be as many as two furlough days per pay period.
 
"In addition to the income those men and women will lose, the costs of sequestration will be felt far and wide in the form of delayed travel for air passengers, and disruptions to air cargo shipping."

The DOT said that the automatic cuts mean travelers should expect delays, as they will allow only the number of flights that can safely be handled by a cut-back air traffic control system. Other effects might include:

  • 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.
  • Delays in those major airports will ripple across the country.
  • Cuts to budgets mean preventative maintenance and quick repair of runway equipment might not be possible which could lead to more delays.

The DOT said that as airlines see what the potential impacts of these furloughs will be, "we expect that they will change their schedules and cancel flights.

"We are beginning discussions with our unions to likely close more than 100 air traffic control towers at airports with fewer than 150,000 flight operations per year – on the list of potential tower closings are places like Boca Raton, Florida; Joplin, Missouri; Hilton Head, South Carolina; and San Marcos, Texas.

"We're also beginning discussions with our unions to eliminate midnight shifts in over 60 towers across the country," officials wrote on the blog.

"These closures are a serious matter. They will impact services for commercial, general aviation, and military aircraft. They will delay travelers and delay the critical goods and services that communities around the country need. They are harmful cuts with real world consequences that will cost jobs and hurt our economy."

FMI: www.dot.gov

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