Paul Kitagaki Jr. /

Travelers walks through the Sacramento International Airport Terminal B on November 20, 2012 in Sacramento, Calif.

Travelers likely to face delays at Sacramento airport and others this summer

Published: Tuesday, Apr. 23, 2013 - 1:06 pm
Last Modified: Tuesday, Apr. 23, 2013 - 3:49 pm

The old adage "pack your patience" may be more true than ever this summer at Sacramento International Airport and other airports nationally - the result of federal budgets cutbacks that went into effect this week.

More than one-third of Sacramento departures and arrivals were delayed as of mid-day Tuesday. It was the third day of the Federal Aviation Administration's federal budget furlough program.

Most of the delays at the Sacramento airport were brief, 20 minutes or less, according to flight tracking services, but a handful stretched beyond an hour.

FAA officials said this week all air traffic controllers - including the 16 at Sacramento International - will be furloughed one day every two weeks as a result of across-the-board federal budget cuts known as "sequestration."

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association on Tuesday claimed more than 10,000 flights had been delayed and more than 600 canceled Monday as a result of the furloughs. The union called on Congress to find a bipartisan solution to the budget stalemate.

"This is just the beginning of what promises to be a huge economic disruption if the furloughs are not stopped," NATCA said in a statement issued by spokesman Doug Church.

The brunt of the delays reportedly have been happening at major airports. Some were related to inclement weather. Smaller facilities like Sacramento reportedly are suffering some level of ripple effect. FAA officials said they do not plan to close the Sacramento traffic control tower for any shifts.

Sacramento airport officials said they do not believe delays at their airport are the result of staffing issues locally, but said the airport may be affected by flights at airports with larger staffing issues.

"We don't know what the long-term impacts are going to be," spokeswoman Laurie Slothower said. " This is new ground for everybody. We're monitoring it."

Sequestration will likely lead to at least some longer lines at federal Transportation Security Administration checkpoints this summer, officials said.

Testifying at Congressional hearing last week, the TSA's John Halinski said the agency has some back-up funds to keep its workforce generally intact, but he warned security lines could grow longer than usual during peak travel moments during the more crowded summer travel season.

TSA officials on Tuesday announced they have postponed a plan to allow fliers to bring pocketknives on planes in their carry-on luggage or on their person. The agency had planned to begin allowing small knives, as well as ski poles, two golf clubs and other items as carry-ons, but said it was backing away to get more input from stakeholders. Flight attendants had protested the decision.

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