Aviation News

April 21, 2013

Sequestration And You- How To Avoid The Delays

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Written by: Jason Rabinowitz
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FAA cut backs due to sequestration had resulted in the furloughing of ATC employees, causing massive delays throughout the country.

So, your elected officials can’t do their job properly, but you already knew that. With an all time low approval rating, our lovely congress has failed to stop automatic spending cuts, and those cuts are hitting the FAA hard.

Aside from the closing of contracted control towers at many smaller airports, employees across the aviation industry are being furloughed as a part of sequestration. This means less controllers at each airport, possibly resulting in less capacity. Less capacity means anything from ground delay programs, extra airborne holding, or even cancelled flights.

The FAA is warning about the possibility of extensive ground delays ranging from 50 minutes to two hours, as well as a reduction in flight arrivals of 30 to 40 percent at certain airports. Air traffic control towers will still have controllers in place as usual, and no sector of air space will go without controller guidance.

In our opinion, you are most likely to see the greatest impact at TSA security checkpoints. The already slow process will become even slower as TSA personnel are furloughed.

Here are some tips on how to best avoid any possible delays:

  • Arrive at the airport early, and be prepared to wait. With some TSA screeners furloughed, it is possible that lines may be longer than usual, and some checkpoints may be closed altogether. Arrive early and minimize the risk of missing your flight. With passenger loads being quite high right now, it may be a while before you are rebooked by your airline. If you are a member of the TSA’s PreCheck, take advantage! If you haven’t already signed up for PreCheck, now would be a really good time to consider it.
  • Fly early in the day to avoid cascading delays that may occur. As the day goes on, flights are more likely to be delayed. Nobody likes being on that 5am flight out of LAX, but it may just save the day.
  • Consider secondary airports that may be impacted less by delays. For example, consider flying out of Midway in Chicago, as opposed to O’Hare. The larger the airport, the more likely you are to be delayed. It’s a long shot, but ask your airline if they are willing to switch you to a secondary airport.
  • If possible, avoid New York! Here at NYCAviation, we are proud of our local airports, but the on-time performance at the three major airports stinks on a good day. If at all possible, route through any other city.
  • Fly mainline instead of regional carriers. During times of heavy delays, airlines prioritize flights to maximize available slots. Regional airlines, such as American Eagle and Delta Connection, often fare much worse than their mainline counterpart. If you can book trips solely on a mainline carrier aircraft, do it.
  • Bring some snacks that will sustain you during a lengthy delay. Dining at the airport can be an expensive ordeal, so try to bring something to eat with you. Remember, however, no drinks can be brought through security.
  • Know you rights as a passenger. The DOT has specific rules for delays, and it never hurts to know your rights. Bookmark this page on your phone, or print a copy.
  • Keep calm. A calm passenger is much more likely to receive assistance from an airline employee than someone who is stark raving mad. Remember, this isn’t the airlines fault, and they don’t like this any more than you do. Do NOT take it out on an airline employee.

While this list isn’t foolproof, hopefully it helps you avoid the chaos which may occur. As airlines provide operational updates concerning sequestration delays, we will bring them to you.

Alaska Air

American Airlines

JetBlue Updated with new link, added comments.

Delta, with added commentary on how to contact you representatives in Congress


Below is a real-time list of delays directly from the FAA.

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UPDATE 8:05pm Sunday:

It seems as if sequestration is already screwing around with the airspace in the New York area. Both JFK and LGA are reporting delays of over an hour due to “staffing.” There is no significant weather in the area, and Sunday evening is usually smooth sailing for the area. However, most international arrivals are currently being subjected to long holding patterns.

Holding Patterns

Holding patterns on approach to JFK

UPDATE 10:00 am Monday:

Things are not off to a good start so far. Some of the earliest flights of the day are seeing extremely lengthy delays, starting with the shuttle services between Washington DC-New York-Boston. The 7am Delta Shuttle out of DCA isn’t due into LGA until after 10:30am, several hours late.

Departure delays at Newark (EWR) are already pushing an hour, and there are reports of southbound flights returning to Newark due to airspace saturation.

We will continue to keep you updated on the delays as they happen.

That's one long shuttle flight!

That’s one long shuttle flight!

UPDATE 1:40pm Monday:

Delays are popping up and clearing quickly at various airports. Check the delays above for the most up to date situation.

UPDATE 1:50pm Tuesday:

The FAA has issued a statement concerning delays caused by sequestration. “Yesterday more than 1,200 delays in the system were attributable to staffing reductions resulting from the furlough. There were more than 1,400 additional delays as a result of weather and other factors,” the agency said.

The FAA says that New York and Los Angeles En Route Centers and the Dallas-Ft. Worth and Las Vegas TRACONs are experiencing staffing challenges.

Hang in there, people!

UPDATE 8:00pm Wednesday:

The FAA has once again issued a statement about the sequestration delays. On Tuesday, the agency says there were more than 1,025 delays attributable to staffing reductions resulting from the furlough. An additional 975 delays were due to weather and other factors.

As predicted, the New York area is seeing heavy delays, with other major cities are seeing delays as well. Thankfully, weather has been pretty good across the nation this week, and has not added to the delays significantly. Once the weather turns bad, however, delays may become quite large.

UPDATE 8:30pm Thursday:

The sequester and associated furloughs are dragging on, and the delays continue. The latest update from the FAA said “yesterday more than 863 delays in the system were attributable to staffing reductions resulting from the furlough at the New York, Washington, Cleveland, Jacksonville and Los Angeles En Route Centers, the Potomac, Dallas and Southern California TRACONs and Detroit Tower.”

I am currently at DFW flying back to LGA, and my flight is impacted by the FAA delays. It’s going to be a late night….

UPDATE 9:00pm Thursday:

Word is now coming in that there is significant progress in providing funding tonight FAA to bring back furloughed air traffic controllers. The Senate has passed the bill, but it must also pass a vote in the House. Stay tuned for updates!

UPDATE 10:30am Friday:

Friday morning sequester delays

Although the House of Representstives should be voting on a bill to authorize funding for the FAA, that has not stopped sequester related delays for piling up this morning.

The northeast is seeing delays from Regan (DCA) in Washington DC, through the New York City area, and up to Boston. The worst delays are currently at Tererboro (TEB) in New Jersey, so those of you with a private jet will be waiting over an hour to depart. There are also sme staffing related delays down in the southeast.

Stay tuned later today for updates on the House vote!

UPDATE 11:30am Friday:

Debate at the House of Representatives

After some heated debate and grandstanding, HR 1765 has been passed by the House of Representstives, restoring funding to the FAA in order to bring back furloughed air traffic controllers.

The funding will unfortunately come from the FAAs airport improvement account, which will most likely create problems further down the road,

During debate, several House representatives blasted the FAA for mismanaging during sequestration, while others railed sequestration as a whole. The nations or traffic system has become the poster child for all of sequestration, as it was the first real visible impact due to the budget cuts.

It is unknown at this point when furloughed controllers will be back at their radar scopes, and when air traffic will get back to normal.

UPDATE 1:15pm Saturday:

ITS OVER! In a short but sweet release, the FAA is now saying that all employee furloughs are suspended.

“The FAA has suspended all employee furloughs. Air traffic facilities will begin to return to regular staffing levels over the next 24 hours and the system will resume normal operations by Sunday evening.”

By Monday, we can all forget that this horrible chain of events ever occurred, until we get a deeper look at where exactly the FAA is getting the money from, which you won’t like. More on that later…

About the Author

Jason Rabinowitz



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  • NickSJ

    This isn’t due to Congress – it’s due to the Obama administration’s determination to inflict maximum pain on ordinary Americans to avoid any spending cuts. The White House shut down visitor tours, but continued holding huge, expensive parties for Obama’s friends. They don’t have enough money for air traffic controllers, but do have enough to send F16’s to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and hundreds of millions in aid to Islamic rebels in Syria.

    Republicans tried to pass a bill to allow Obama to move money around within the budget, but he threatened to veto it. Emails have been leaked in which Obama’s senior managers told staff to make sure any threatened reductions in services actually happened. This is such an obvious ploy – why are you falling for it?

  • flutiefan

    this is all great advice! as an airline employee at the airport, i especially appreciate your last point. we HATE delays as much as the passengers!
    (#1 & 2 are key, too!)

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