Flights to and from New York City- area airports are experiencing delays of almost two hours today because of weather, maintenance and the automatic U.S. budget cuts that furloughed air-traffic controllers.
The disruptions in the nation’s busiest air-travel market affected the three largest U.S. airlines. United Continental Holdings Inc., the biggest, has a hub at New Jersey’s Newark Liberty airport, while Delta Air Lines Inc. and AMR Corp.’s American Airlines are the largest at New York’s LaGuardia.
Federal Aviation Administrator Michael Huerta warned last week that delays at major U.S. airports may reach more than two hours with fewer controllers on duty because of the spending cuts known as sequestration. The agency has “no choice” about layoffs for those employees and maintenance workers, he said.
LaGuardia had delays of one hour, 43 minutes for some arrivals as of 10:30 a.m. local time as weather added to the slowdown, while departures ran about an hour late, according to the FAA’s travel website. Flights to New York’s Kennedy airport were as much as one hour, 41 minutes late, partly due to runway maintenance. Newark also had delays.
Those were the only major airports in the U.S. showing significant delays at 10:50 a.m. New York time, according to the FAA website. Laura Brown, an FAA spokeswoman, had no immediate comment on today’s flight operations.
Flights yesterday into Los Angeles were delayed an average of three hours due to staffing shortages, and when a shift of workers left at midnight the airport was still behind by 200 flights from earlier in the day, Doug Church, a spokesman for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, said today in an e-mail.
One airline landed planes at nearby Ontario airport, and shuttled passengers by bus to the Los Angeles airport, Church said. An average of about 10 percent of controllers will be on furlough on any given day, according to the union, which represents about 15,000 FAA-employed controllers.
Delta said on its website that it is “disappointed” by the furloughs, and said there may be delays at 10 airports including LaGuardia, Kennedy, Newark, Chicago O’Hare, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
American issued a similar warning to passengers last week. A lack of details from the FAA make it “difficult to communicate exactly how customers will be affected,” Andrea Huguely, a spokeswoman for the Fort Worth, Texas-based carrier, said in an April 20 e-mail.
The Airlines for America trade group last week sued the FAA, saying the cutbacks are based on a flawed reading of the law and furloughs would snarl airports and hurt the economy.
FAA leaders could use discretion and make mandatory budget cuts in other areas that don’t affect the agency’s mission of managing U.S. airspace, Delta General Counsel Ben Hirst said in an April 19 letter to the agency in which he cited memos from U.S. solicitors general under the most recent Democratic and Republican administrations that had the same conclusion.
Flight delays and cancellations may result in “demand destruction” and a lower second-quarter revenue outlook, Daniel McKenzie, an analyst at Buckingham Research in New York, wrote today in a note to clients.
JetBlue Airways Corp., which has its hometown base at Kennedy, joins United, Delta and Southwest Airlines Co. among carriers with greater risk of delays, he wrote.
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