Staff shortages at airports cause travel chaos

Staff shortages at airports cause travel chaos

A shortage of air-traffic controllers prompted the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to order a brief ground stop at New York City’s La Guardia Airport for arriving flights — which it lifted about an hour later, but warned of lingering delays, according to the New York Post.

Flights also were delayed at Newark, Philadelphia and Washington, DC, the FAA said.

“We have experienced a slight increase in sick leave at two air traffic control facilities affecting New York and Florida,” the agency said in a statement about the halt.

“As with severe storms, we will adjust operations to a safe rate to match available controller resources. We’ve mitigated the impact by augmenting staffing, rerouting traffic, and increasing spacing between aircraft as needed.”

FAA spokesman Gregory Martin added: “The results have been minimal impacts to efficiency while maintaining consistent levels of safety in the national airspace system.”

The staffing problems were at air-traffic centres in Jacksonville, Florida, and a Washington, DC, centre that controls high-altitude air traffic over seven US tates.

The FAA earlier reported an average of 41-minute delays for La Guardia-bound flights and urged flyers to monitor air traffic at and check with individual airlines for more information.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that US President Trump was briefed about the matter.

‘We are monitoring the ongoing delays at some airports. We are in regular contact with officials at the Department of Transportation and the FAA,” she said.

One passenger named Stacey Carey tweeted that her plane was delayed on the tarmac for 50 minutes “because of staff shortages in air traffic control.”

The stop was ordered shortly before 10am as the partial government shutdown has entered its 35th day. It was lifted about 45 minutes later.

Mayor de Blasio told WNYC radio host Brian Lehrer: “I wish I could say I was shocked, Brian, but this is the cost of the shutdown.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on Mr Trump on Twitter to “stop endangering the safety, security and wellbeing of our nation. Re-open government now!:

She added: “The #TrumpShutdown has already pushed hundreds of thousands of Americans to the breaking point. Now it’s pushing our airspace to the breaking point too.”

Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew Cuomo wrote to Mr Trump on Friday demanding that he reopen the government immediately because the shutdown is impacting safety and security at airports and putting travellers at risk.

The disruptions come a day after three major US airlines — American, Southwest and JetBlue — warned about the shutdown’s risk to the aviation system.

“No one can predict what impact it will have as it continues,” Southwest Chief Executive Gary Kelly said of the shutdown on Thursday.

JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes said the situation was reaching a “tipping point.”

Air traffic controllers, pilots and flight attendants have also issued a warning about the safety of air passengers and calling for the White House and Congress to find a solution.

“In our risk averse industry, we cannot even calculate the level of risk currently at play, nor predict the point at which the entire system will break. It is unprecedented,” the unions for all three groups said in a statement this week.

Controllers, TSA agents, air marshalls and other law enforcement personnel have all been caught up in the impasse, leaving airports understaffed and raising concerns about the safety of the nation’s aviation system.

This article first appeared in the New York Post and was republished with permission.

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