Published: Sat, January 26, 2019
Markets | By Erika Turner

FLIGHT DELAYS: Seething Travelers Report 'Utter Hell' At Newark Airport

FLIGHT DELAYS: Seething Travelers Report 'Utter Hell' At Newark Airport

CNN aviation safety analyst and former FAA safety inspector David Soucie told CNN on Friday that the FAA's decision to halt flights into New York's LaGuardia airport due to air traffic control staffing shortages was only the first domino to fall and that worse was coming.

The Federal Aviation Administration ordered a ground stop at the NY airport, citing staffing at an air traffic control facility in Washington.

The restrictions at LaGuardia were causing ripple effects at other airports with delays reported at Newark's Liberty International Airport and Philadelphia International Airport.

"We have experienced a slight increase in sick leave at two air traffic control facilities affecting NY and Florida", the FAA said in a statement.

"What we're seeing is people having to make hard decisions after getting no paycheck this week", Paul Rinaldi, the president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, said in an interview with CBS News Thursday.

Though all New York-area air traffic centers are fully staffed, delays continued at LaGuardia because of a ground stop, the official told CNN. Atlanta, Miami and Orlando airports are also experiencing delays. That's a question with a potentially uncomfortable answer, at least according to the unions representing more than 130,000 pilots, flight attendants, and air traffic controllers, per the New York Times.

This entire statement from the National Air Traffic Controllers Association is terrifying.

As of Friday morning, the staffing issues are occurring at the Washington ARTCC (Air Route Traffic Control Center) and at the Jacksonville Air Route Traffic Control Center, both of which are facilities that control aircraft while they're flying at high altitudes between airports.

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The National Air Traffic Controllers Association said staffing was already at a 30-year low before the shutdown, forcing controllers to work overtime and six-day weeks.

Likewise, United's Hobart said Friday's delays are "another good illustration of the escalating impact of the government shutdown and the need for the federal government to promptly reopen". Friday is the 35th day of the government shutdown. The FAA continually reviews and analyzes its performance to assess its safety and efficiency.

Insisting airport staff are now at breaking point, Rinaldi added: 'I don't know when a system gets to that critical mass, but when you take away equipment that helps us see that a plane is on the appropriate runway, that's risk in the system.

"There are no options to keep these professionals at work without a paycheck when they can no longer afford to support their families", the statement said.

As many as 800,000 federal workers are currently facing a second missed paycheck because of the partial US government shutdown, now the longest in USA history.

With the government temporarily reopening, it would appear they do.

Marisa Rizzuti was one of the fliers affected by the delays.

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