Flight Delays at LAX Come Amid FAA Budget Cuts

The delays are being blamed on federal furloughs of air traffic controllers

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    The FAA, which imposed furloughs for air traffic controllers because of federal budget cuts, was asking for patience as flight delays and cancellations hit airports. Passengers at Los Angeles International Airport, which saw major delays Sunday, were not pleased. Annette Arreola reports for the NBC4 News at Noon on Monday, April 22, 2013.

    A day after hours-long delays at Southern California came as budget-cut-imposed airport furloughs began, passengers at LAX were feeling the hangover on Monday morning.

    Most flights were on time, according to arrival and departure boards before dawn Monday morning, and the FAA's flight tracker reported LAX seeing delays of 15 minutes or less. Some flights, however, had been canceled.

    Flight Delays Hit LAX Passengers

    [LA] Flight Delays Hit LAX Passengers
    As the FAA instituted furloughs because of budget cuts, major flight delays arrived at Los Angeles International Airport Sunday. Passengers were seeing some delays Monday, when the problem was expected to worsen. NBC4's Annette Arreola reports for Today in LA on April 22, 2013.

    But many passengers had spent the night in terminals at Los Angeles International Airport, and some were told they wouldn't be departing for hours.

    "We basically slept on the floor all night," said traveler Karen Harris. "People had no hotel rooms. If it had been planned out and they had kept us informed, it could have been handled a lot better."

    Air Traffic Controller Furloughs Likely to Affect Travelers

    [LA] Air Traffic Controller Furloughs Likely to Affect Travelers
    Budget-related furloughs of air traffic controllers began Sunday. Authorities say the furloughs could cause delays for travelers, especially during bad weather. Some 68 flights land at LAX each hour, but with the furloughs, that figure will be cut by 20 flights, forced to circle in a holding pattern until the runways are clear. Tena Ezzeddine reports for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on April 21, 2013.

    The effects were being felt after delays of up to three hours on Sunday, when LAX saw close to 70 percent of flights behind schedule. Orange County's John Wayne Airport saw some 80 percent of flights late on Sunday.

    On Sunday night, delays were expected to worsen with Monday's busier flight schedule.

    LAX at "Ground Stop" Same Day Furloughs Are Enacted

    [LA] LAX at "Ground Stop" Same Day Furloughs Are Enacted
    Planes flying into LAX were delayed more than three hours Sunday night. Federal authorities could not confirm whether the holdup and furloughs of air traffic controllers were connected, but one air traffic controller union official believes they are related. Tena Ezzeddine reports from LAX for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on April 21, 2013.

    The online flight-tracking website flightview.com estimated that a little more than 15 percent of LAX departures were late or very late on Monday morning, with about 10 percent of arrivals also late or very late.

    Long Beach Airport, Orange County's John Wayne Airport and Burbank Airport were showing delays of close of 20 percent of arrivals and departures, according to the website. All flights appeared to be on time at Ontario Airport.

    Officials with the John Wayne Airport contacted NBC4 to say that, in fact, the Santa Ana airport was not experiencing delays because of FAA furloughs.

    Jenny Wedge, a spokeswoman for John Wayne Airport, said delays could be related to anything.

    Meanwhile, passengers at airports around the country were waiting to see whether the problems at LAX on Sunday would spread to airports in other cities.

    The delays are being blamed on federal furloughs of air traffic controllers after the Federal Aviation Administration slashed more than $600 million from its budget, which the agency said forced it to subject most of its 47,000 employees, including air traffic controllers, to periodic furloughs and to close air traffic facilities at small airports with lighter traffic.

    Budget cuts that kicked in last month forced the FAA to give controllers extra days off. The agency says planes will have to take off and land less frequently to avoid overloading the remaining controllers.

    The average delay Sunday night was three hours in the Southern California Terminal Radius Approach Control (TRACON), said National Air Traffic Controllers Association spokesman Doug Church.

    "They basically cut their arrival rate in half,'' Church said. "That's no way to run the air traffic control system.''

    The TRACON in Mira Mar controls aircraft after takeoff and on approach throughout Southern California, and there's a regional control center in Palmdale that controls aircraft at high altitudes. The furloughs at those facilities affect flights throughout the system.

    LAX spokesman Marshall Lowe said about 70 flights had delays of about an hour or more Sunday, but could not say the role staffing played.

    “The FAA said there were delays, but I can’t give a reason why," Lowe told NBC4. "It could be that weather was a factor too.”

    City News Service and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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