All flights could be delayed 30 min because of sequester

Air travel is quickly becoming yet another victim of the sequester.

Air Traffic Controllers are looking at 10 percent cut in the house they work, starting this month, and that means a 10% cut in pay.  How would you like a 10% cut in pay?  But what’s more than the economic impact on the controllers is the impact on air travel itself.  Reportedly, that cutback might force the FAA to delay flights – all of them – by 30 minutes, indefinitely, in order to guarantee air safety.

Those air traffic furloughs start at O’Hare Airport in Chicago, a potential source of congestion for practically every flight nationwide – when O’Hare has delays, kiss your on-time flight, from nearly any airport, goodbye – April 21.  And what’s worse, O’Hare could lose a runway, and a tour, at least part of the day because of the cuts.  And that could mean a 37% drop in hourly landings at O’Hare, which means even more deals nationwide.

Small airports, like the one in Brownsville, Texas, have been devastated by the cuts.  The local town had to find $44,000 a month just to keep the airport open once its control tower, scheduled to be shut down by the FAA as a cost-cutting measure, is finally closed.  That’s money local towns don’t have nowadays.  Fortunately, late Sunday the FAA announced that it wouldn’t being the anticipated closure of 149 control towers at smaller airports until June, and that includes Brownsville’s tower.  But the cuts in air traffic controllers will still affect local airports’ ability to keep all towers running at the same time.

Another consequence of the cuts, 1,000 contract air traffic controllers are expected to lose their jobs entirely.

Customs lines for international flights are also growing.  At LAX, the authorities have taken to holding people on their planes for an extra hour, at times, to help ease the 90 minute customs backlog brought on by the sequester.

The wait time for customs in Miami reportedly jumped from one hour the week before the sequester to three hours and forty minutes one Saturday post-sequester.

But don’t think the rest of us domestic travelers are going to get off.  The TSA had to institute a hiring freeze, which may leave it 1,000 agents short by Memorial Day, and 2,600 short by the end of September.

Airplane via Shutterstock.

Airplane via Shutterstock.

Then there’s the impact on airlines and travel agents.  US government spending on air travel dropped 30% this month because of the sequester.  And the government accounts for 3-4% of airline revenue.  And that decreased government travel is hurting conference centers, like in Cheyenne, Wyoming, where a space conference was devastated by NASA’s withdrawal from the event as a result of budget cuts.  And that hurts hotels and local businesses too.  US Airways is also complaining about lost revenues due to the sequester.

Some in Congress are freaking out over the cutbacks:

Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) said that he and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) plan to introduce legislation next week that would prohibit the FAA from closing any towers. Moran had made an unsuccessful attempt to secure funding to keep the towers open during the debate over the continuing funding resolution.

No way.  The Republicans have spent decades telling the American people how useless and evil the federal government is, how easy it is to cut spending by simply cutting “waste, fraud and abuse,” so let the American people see how expendable their government really is.

Of course, none of this stops losers like GOP Senator John Cornyn of Texas to claim the other day that the sequester isn’t impact any jobs or services anywhere.  He also claimed, specifically, that aviation isn’t being impacted one iota by the sequester.  Cornyn crowed about how the Obama administration is the “boy who cried wolf.”  Cornyn is a typical anti-American Republican, who has nothing but contempt for the government, while sucking his $174,000 a year senator’s salary from the government.

Just remember Cornyn’s snotty op ed next time you’re flying and it’s a disaster because of the sequester.  You’ll know who, and which party, to blame.

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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