FAA furloughs over, air traffic controllers back on the job

Posted at 10:07 AM, May 02, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-02 10:07:11-04

FAA Air Traffic Control System Command

By Ed Payne

(CNN) — Good news for air travelers, both domestic and international: A budget-related furlough of air traffic controllers is over — and with it, the resulting travel delays.

Last week’s toll? More than 40,000 flights delayed and 1,900 others canceled, according to

Hard hit were U.S. airports with large numbers of international travelers.

At Los Angeles International, a gateway airport to Asia, more than 2,400 flights were delayed and 215 canceled, between April 21 and 27.

For travelers heading to Europe, the Middle East and Africa, John F. Kennedy International proved to be the biggest bottleneck. Passengers at the New York airport suffered through more than 1,950 delays and 177 cancellations last week.

A flick of the pen

President Barack Obama signed legislation this week to end budget-related FAA air traffic controller furloughs that caused widespread travel delays last week.

Although the president didn’t officially put pen to paper until Tuesday, the fix went into effect over the weekend. A typo in the Senate version of the bill delayed the signing.

The bill gives the FAA permission to move money from other accounts that allows it to stop furloughing controllers.

The FAA issued a statement Saturday saying that it had suspended all employee furloughs and expected normal operations to resume Sunday evening.

In rare bipartisan accord, U.S. lawmakers passed the measure Friday, capping a major congressional initiative as the delays snarled airport traffic.

Bookkeeping changes

The measure gives the Transportation Department budget planners new flexibility for dealing with forced spending cuts, being allowed to shift money between accounts.

It also allows authorities to protect 149 control towers at small- and medium-sized airports that are slated for closure for budgetary reasons.

The furloughs affected some 15,000 FAA air traffic controllers.

Cost-cutting measures such as the furloughs and the planned closures of towers that are privately run or overseen by federal aviation regulators had become part of the debate on government spending.

They have been highlighted by many to illustrate a clear nationwide consequence of the $85 billion in government-wide cuts that took effect in March and may otherwise not be apparent to the public.

CNN’s Kevin Bohn and Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report.

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