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Air traffic controller furloughs kick in; flight delays hit airports

April 22, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Long delays and cancellations are expected at airports across the country Monday, a day after air traffic controllers started going on furlough because of government spending cuts.

Southwest Airlines is blaming its numerous cancellations and delays on the furloughs. A Southwest representative said some flights didn't arrive Sunday night at Los Angeles International Airport, forcing flight cancellations Monday morning.

Airline officials said that LAX in general plans to decrease its number of departures by 20 flights an hour - from 62 to 42.

The furloughs are being blamed on federal budget cuts that kicked in last month. The Federal Aviation Administration said it had no choice but to furlough all 47,000 agency employees, including nearly 15,000 air traffic controllers. Each employee will lose one day of work every other week. It's all in an effort to save $600 million annually.

At LAX, that means three less air traffic controllers a day, so planes will have to take off and land less often. On Sunday, average delays at LAX topped three hours.

LAX tweeted shortly before 2 p.m. that according to the FAA, there were no more flight delays at their airport, but other airports across the nation, including Denver and JFK, continued to experience delays.

Los Angeles World Airports released a statement Monday expressing concern about the cutbacks, especially during inclement weather and during the peak summer travel season.

"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," the statement said. "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."

Many passengers are unhappy about the furloughs, which are expected to continue through the end of September.

"If you look at it for essential personnel, I would classify these people as essential. You know, there's a lot of business going on that's now delayed," said passenger Mike Kennedy from Indianapolis.

Despite the delays and cancellations, the majority of LAX flights were on schedule Monday. LAX officials said it was a typical Monday. It was the same for airports in Burbank, Long Beach and Orange County.

Delays would depend on the airport, the time of day and the volume of traffic.


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