On the 35th day of the government shutdown, NBC News reports that the FAA halted some flights arriving at LaGuardia airport Friday morning, due to air traffic control staffing shortages.
New York is not the only airport experiencing delays. Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey and Philadelphia International Airport are also having delays due to the staffing issues, CNN reports.
The FAA released a statement saying, “We have experienced a slight increase in sick leave at two air traffic control facilities affecting New York and Florida. 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. The results have been minimal impacts to efficiency while maintaining consistent levels of safety in the national airspace system.”
Some arriving flights at LaGuardia are delayed by more than an hour, according to the FAA’s real time status information. Passengers are advised to check with their airline to see if their flight is affected.
The President of the Air Traffic Controllers Association, Paul Rinaldi, told CNN’s Chris Cuomo, that the shutdown is taking a toll on air traffic controllers and they are making “routine mistakes” because of the high levels of stress they face due to the shutdown. “The biggest toll I have right now is the human toll, the fatigue in my work environment right now where I’m seeing routine mistakes because they’re thinking about which credit cards can I consolidate up for zero interest?” Rinaldi said.
The delays due to staffing shortages follows a dire warning of the impact the government shutdown is having on flight safety in a joint statement from the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, Air Line Pilots Association, and Association of Flight Attendants-CWA on Wednesday.
In part, the statement read, “We have a growing concern for the safety and security of our members, our airlines, and the traveling public due to the government shutdown. This is already the longest government shutdown in the history of the United States and there is no end in sight. 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.”
It went on to say that air traffic control staffing is at a 30-year low and controllers face 10-hour days and 6 day weeks while the shutdown has frozen hiring and shuttered the training academy.
The statement concluded, “As union leaders, we find it unconscionable that aviation professionals are being asked to work without pay and in an air safety environment that is deteriorating by the day. To avoid disruption to our aviation system, we urge Congress and the White House to take all necessary steps to end this shutdown immediately.”
The TSA has been experiencing record levels of call-outs as the government shutdown drags on but until today passengers have not experienced significant delays in relation to the shutdown.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi tweeted about the air traffic control staffing shortage and urged President Trump to re-open the government.