FAA Furloughs Cause Flight Delays at Lindbergh Field

The FAA kept planes on the ground because there weren't enough controllers on duty

By Nicole Gonzales and R. Stickney
|  Tuesday, Apr 23, 2013  |  Updated 11:53 AM PDT
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Forced furlough days for air traffic controllers have caused flight delays affecting some travelers here in San Diego. NBC 7's Nicole Gonzales reports.

Forced furlough days for air traffic controllers have caused flight delays affecting some travelers here in San Diego. NBC 7's Nicole Gonzales reports.

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Forced furlough days for air traffic controllers and weather has caused flight delays affecting some travelers here in San Diego.

The Federal Aviation Administration’s staffing cuts of 10 percent started Sunday. However, the full force wasn’t felt until Monday morning on what is typically one of the busiest flying days of the week.

Some of the hardest hit airports were in larger cities like New York, Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles. Still, there was a trickle-down effect in San Diego.

On Monday, at least 50 flights were impacted by the delays. The FAA flight tracker listed "due to staffing" as a reason behind certain delays.

For traveler Maria Magana, seeing red on the departure board at Lindbergh Field was not a good sign. Some flights were pushed back close to two hours.

“If they tell us it's another hour, that's definitely going to be very frustrating for us,” Magana said.

“We wanted to get there early because we have to go to work tomorrow. It just throws us off,” she said.

Boeing Employee Jim Holton pointed the blame at politicians.

“It's not the airlines fault. It's not the FAA's fault. It's our government that caused the issue by not passing the funding and everything else,” Holton said.

Critics have said the FAA could reduce its budget in other spots that wouldn't delay travelers.

"There's a lot finger-pointing going on, but the simple truth is that it is Congress's job to fix this," said Rep. Rick Larsen, a Washington Democrat and member of the House aviation panel.

"Flight delays are just the latest example of how the sequester is damaging the economy and hurting families across the country."

FAA officials have said they have no choice but to furlough all 47,000 agency employees -- including nearly 15,000 controllers -- because the agency's budget is dominated by salaries. Each employee will lose one day of work every other week.

The FAA has said that planes will have to take off and land less frequently, so as not to overload the remaining controllers on duty.

Furloughs will continue for months, raising the risk of a turbulent summer travel season. There's no way for passengers to tell in advance which airport or flights will experience delays.

Airline associations as well as pilot unions have filed suit to stop the furloughs. A hearing date hasn't been set yet.

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