The FAA furloughs kicked in Sunday despite a lawsuit filed by two airline trade associations and the Airline Pilots Association, and it’s already causing frustration for travelers.
Federal officials say they have no choice but to furlough all 47,000 FAA employees, including 15,000 air traffic controllers, if they are going to cut more than $600 million from the agency’s budget by the end of September as required by the sequester cuts.
That means each employee
will lose a day of work every other week.
As one might expect, fewer air traffic controllers means planes take off and land less often.
On behalf of our customers and employees, Delta is disappointed that furloughs of Federal Aviation Administration personnel will result in delays and cancellations across the national air transportation system. The FAA has advised Delta that furlough-driven delays are most likely to occur at the following 10 airports:
Los Angeles (LAX)
Delta will continue to do everything possible to mitigate these delays for our customers. As always, we encourage customers to check their flight status at delta.com or on the Fly Delta app before arriving at the airport.
Predicting delays that would stretch from coast to coast, the airline industry and the nation’s largest pilots union joined forces last week to sue the FAA over its decision to furlough air traffic controllers.
However, the earliest the court is likely to schedule a hearing is sometime next week, after the furloughs have begun, said Nick Calio, head of Airlines for America, which represents major carriers.
FAA officials declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Airlines Want You Stuck On The Tarmac Over 3 Hours
Now that Federal Aviation Administration furloughs have gone into effect, the U.S. Department of Transportation is considering
lifting our rule
that says airplanes can’t remain on the tarmac for more than three hours for domestic flights before allowing passengers to deplane.
Two airline industry associations filed a motion
with the DOT requesting a moratorium on the FlyersRights’ backed 3-hour rule for at least 90 days or until the FAA furloughs end.
They cite the “substantial delay and disruption to air travel that will occur at U.S. airports from the FAA decision to implement daily ground delays and reduce air traffic control personnel” as part of the federal spending cuts known as the sequester.
The airline associations argue that these delays might make it difficult to comply with the DOT tarmac delay rule, which comes with penalties for those who break it.
If the rule stays in place, the motion says airlines “may be forced to cancel flights and significantly disrupt the travel plans of their passengers.”
Safety Cuts Shameful To Passengers
Despite passengers paying high taxes to fund the FAA’s air traffic control system, the FAA has decided to cut back operational funding.
“Shame on the FAA for slamming passengers with safety-slashing and delay-causing cuts to the air traffic control system,” said Charlie Leocha, Director, Consumer Travel Alliance. “This is an unnecessary cut of services for which passengers pay each and every time they fly — we are not getting what we are paying for.”
Specifically, here are the user fees passengers pay:
- 9/11 Security Fee = $2.50 per flight number to a maximum of $5 per one-way or $10 per roundtrip
- Federal Segment Fee = $3.90 per takeoff or landing (maximum of $15.60)
- Passenger Facility Charges (PFCs) = up to $18
- When traveling internationally, we have to pay additional user fees to take off and land, to have our passports checked and our luggage inspected for customs.
- International Departure Tax = $17.20
- International Arrival Tax = $17.20
- Immigration user fee = $7
- U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service fee = $5
Airline industry studies show that passengers are taxed at a higher federal rate than alcohol and tobacco. And now travelers aren’t getting what they are paying earmarked taxes and fees for.
* Since 1990, the number of aviation taxes/fees has increased from six to 17; the total amount of taxes paid by the industry has grown from $3.7 billion to $17 billion over the same period.
* The tax burden on a typical $300 round-trip ticket has nearly tripled since 1972, rising from $22 (7 percent) to $61 (20 percent).
* Annually, airlines and their customers contribute $10 billion to $12 billion to the Airport and Airway Trust Fund; general aviation contributes about $200 million.
* Airlines and their customers already incur $3.4B-$3.8B per year in federally imposed security taxes/fees.
* Also, the FAA’s budget has increased more than 100 percent over the last 15 years.
House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) noted:
There are $2.7 billion in non-personnel Operations costs that should be examined before FAA personnel are furloughed.
Finding five percent in savings shouldn’t need to significantly impact our nation’s aviation operations. Businesses and families across the country face these issues in their budgets every day without massive impacts. We know that the FAA has the flexibility to reduce costs elsewhere, such as contracts, travel, supplies, and consultants, or to apply furloughs in a manner that better protects the most critical air traffic control facilities.
Leocha urges the FAA to take another look at their cuts. “At least keep New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago airspace fully staffed, he notes. “When delays show up in those regions, the domino effect is dramatic across the country according to study after study.”