FAA furloughs mean flight delays may be inescapable

Commercial aircraft/CBS 42

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – An FAA spokesperson says they don’t expect to see serious delays in Birmingham on a daily basis, but all of the air traffic controllers are subject to furloughs and many travelers could fly into airports that are backed up.

Nationwide 10% of the FAA employees are now furloughed on any given day, according to Kathleen Bergen with the FAA.

That means that of the 15,000 air traffic controllers nationwide, 1500 are on furlough each day.

On Sunday there were four hundred delays nationwide because of the furloughs, according to the FAA. The agency says staffing shortages at centers in New York, Fort Worth, Jacksonville and Los Angeles – will cause air traffic controllers to space planes further apart. That creates a ripple effect that causes delays in other airports like New York’s La Guardia Airport.

Depending on the weather, the time of day, and the traffic conditions at other airports, delays may be felt in Birmingham as well.

Clay Ingram with AAA Alabama says it could really be a headache for travelers with connecting flights.

“It really will depend on your destination, how many layovers you have, how many stops you have to make, and when those delays come into play. So if you miss a connecting flight you can end up in a strange airport for, for several hours waiting for the next flight and that’s a very, very frustrating situation for anybody that’s had to do that before and nobody enjoys that,” said Ingram. “It’s going to add time to your trip even if you don’t have any delays. You probably need to get to the airport a little earlier. But you know if you’re traveling you need to be aware of the rules, you need to be aware of what you need to do, what you can’t do. You don’t want to get delayed at the security check point because you’re, you’re luggage has got too much shampoo in it.”

If you’re flying, check the airline’s website before you head out to see if your flight is on time.  Also check the latest TSA guidelines for carry-on luggage.  Those can change.

“So it pays to do a little research and a little homework and to know what is expected of you so that you’re not surprised when you get to the airport,” said Ingram.

If you miss a connecting flight because of a delay, Ingram’s advice is to ask if the airline offers  vouchers for food, lodging or a discounts other flights.

He says some airlines are waiving fees for people who want to change their tickets under certain circumstances.

The FAA recommends checking for flight delays at fly.faa.gov.

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