Delays impact travelers at Dane Co. Regional Airport

Published: Jan. 25, 2019 at 9:07 AM CST
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Brent S. Kyzer-McHenry, a spokesperson with the Dane County Regional Airport, said there's one flight scheduled for LaGuardia that is on an hour delay, not canceled.

Kyzer-McHenry said the airport here in Madison won't see the same type of air traffic controller issues because LaGuardia is a major hub for flights while Madison is not.

An increase in sick leave among air traffic controllers delayed flights at several major East Coast airports on Friday, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

Flights at New York's LaGuardia Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport and Philadelphia International Airport were delayed on Day 35 of the partial government shutdown. The FAA had briefly halted flights into LaGuardia and some arriving flights were delayed almost an hour and a half, the agency said.

Flights out of Philadelphia International Airport were delayed up to an hour and 15 minutes, and 45 minutes at Newark, the FAA said.

"The President has been briefed and we are monitoring the ongoing delays at some airports," said White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders. "We are in regular contact with officials at the Department of Transportation and the FAA."

Airline executives and aviation workers have warned that the partial government shutdown could roil air travel, causing longer lines, delays and flight cancellations. Some 420,000 federal workers, including Transportation Security Administration screeners and air traffic controllers, have been deemed essential and told to go to work even though they aren't receiving regular pay in the shutdown.

JetBlue Airways CEO Robin Hayes said on an earnings call on Thursday that "we are close to a tipping point" with federal aviation workers set to miss a second paycheck.

Aviation workers, including air traffic controllers, pilots and flight attendants in a joint statement earlier this week said they were worried about safety and security risks as a result of already stretched resources at federal aviation departments.

"We have experienced a slight increase in sick leave at two facilities," the FAA said. "We've mitigated the impact by augmenting staffing, rerouting traffic, and increasing spacing between aircraft when needed. The results have been minimal impacts to efficiency while maintaining consistent levels of safety in the national airspace system."

The FAA said the two stations affected by the shortages of workers were in Jacksonville, Florida and in Washington, D.C.

On Thursday, an FAA spokesman said the agency had seen "no unusual increased absenteeism and there are no operational disruptions due to staffing" because of the government shutdown.

A spike in the absences of Transportation Security Administration screeners has led to longer lines at some of the country's busiest airports throughout this month. The TSA has said unscheduled absences have been higher than usual because some officers are facing financial strain in the shutdown, which began Dec. 22. TSA said on Friday that officers' unscheduled absences remain elevated.

For its part, United Airlines, which has the biggest presence of any airline in Newark, said it was working with FAA to minimize delays.

"At this point, we don't anticipate significant schedule disruptions, but it is another good illustration of the escalating impact of the government shutdown and the need for the federal government to promptly re-open," the airline said in a statement.