On Sunday the FAA began air controller furloughs that the agency said are required to comply with budgets cuts mandated under sequestration. The move has resulted in not only cascading air traffic delays but also scorn and lawsuits from aviation industry groups.
In a joint letter sent Friday to the White House, 11 aviation groups–including NBAA, AOPA and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (Natca)–implored the FAA to avert the air traffic controller furloughs, saying that these employees are “essential personnel” and should thus be exempt from sequester cuts. Without their exemption, “It will be challenging for air traffic to continue to operate at its current rate of high efficiency,” they said.
That warning apparently wasn’t hype. “After just two days of furloughs, more than 10,000 flights have been delayed and more than 600 canceled,” Natca said. Today, the FAA announced it is “implementing traffic management initiatives at airports and facilities around the country” as a result of the furloughs, adding, “Travelers can expect to see a wide range of delays.” The FAA estimates that delays due to controller furloughs could affect up to 6,700 flights a day, roughly a third of the daily air traffic in the U.S.
Meanwhile, three groups–Airlines for America, the Air Line Pilots Association and the Regional Airline Association–filed suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., on Friday to halt the controller furlough plan. Hearings for these cases will start this week.