No major delays at Sacramento airport as air traffic controller furloughs roll out

Published: Tuesday, Apr. 23, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 6B
Last Modified: Tuesday, Apr. 23, 2013 - 3:49 pm

Sacramento International Airport officials said the facility was largely unaffected Monday by the air traffic controller furloughs blamed for a cascade of flight delays on the East Coast.

Airport officials said they could point to no delays or cancellations stemming from the unpaid furlough of the controllers, which started Sunday.

A review of the airport's website, however, indicated a number of flight delays Monday. Many of them were only 10 to 20 minutes long, but some were more than an hour.

"We're advising customers to check with their airlines and monitor the Web for flight information," airport spokeswoman Laurie Slothower said.

Monday was the first full day of an estimated 15,000 furloughs nationally of Federal Aviation Administration employees, the result of the federal government's budget sequestration.

Ian Gregor, the FAA's West Coast spokesman, warned in a press statement that fliers should be prepared to wait. "Travelers can expect to see a wide range of delays that will change throughout the day, depending on staffing and weather related issues," he said.

Federal officials said each air traffic controller is expected to be furloughed one day per pay period, or every two weeks.

For information on flights in and out of Sacramento, go to www.smf.aero or www.flightstats.com.

Federal officials say serious delays are more likely at larger airports, but the ripple effect can have an impact on medium-size facilities such as Sacramento.

That was the case on Monday, where a shortage of controllers to monitor busy air corridors was cited by airlines for delayed flights at some of nation's busiest airports, including New York, Baltimore and Washington.

Many operations were more than two hours behind schedule. At one point, the delays were so bad that passengers on several Washington-New York shuttle flights could have reached their destination faster by taking a train.

Nearly a third of flights at New York's LaGuardia Airport scheduled to take off before 3 p.m. were delayed 15 minutes or more, according to flight-tracking service FlightAware. Last Monday, just 6 percent of LaGuardia's flights were delayed.

The situation was similar at Washington's Reagan National Airport, in Newark, N.J., and in Philadelphia, with roughly 20 percent of flights delayed.

At airports, Monday is typically one of the busiest days, when many high-paying business travelers depart for a week on the road. The FAA's controller cuts – a 10 percent reduction of its staff – went into effect Sunday. The full force was not felt until Monday morning.

Call The Bee's Tony Bizjak, (916) 321-1059. Follow him on Twitter @tonybizjak.The Associated Press contributed to this report.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

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