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Government shutdown: flights halted due to FAA staffing shortages

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The government shutdown is starting to have a real impact on flights throughout the country.

Staffing shortages at the Federal Aviation Administration, the US’ top air traffic regulator, were causing delays at some of the country’s biggest airports on Friday morning, including Philadelphia, Tampa, Florida and New York City’s La Guardia Airport, as well as Newark.

As of 10am, these four airports had traffic management (TM) initiatives in place.
FAA

Washington DC’s Reagan airport was also briefly suffering from delays, but was dropped from the list later in the morning.

Traffic management programs, also known as ground stops, don’t necessarily apply to all flights into and out of an airport. The ground delay program limits the number of departures in order to lessen the volume that air traffic controllers have to direct.

Federal workers deemed essential, like air traffic controllers and TSA security screeners, have been working without pay for 35 days now as the shutdown enters its second month. Workers were set to miss their second regularly scheduled paycheck on Friday due to the shutdown.

Some flights appear to have been re-routed in order to deal with the traffic management programs in place.

Joaquin Castro, a recent entrant to the Democratic presidential primary race, says the crew on his Southwest flight to San Antonio said they had packed extra fuel in case the shutdown lead to delays.

Many agencies have also been seeing an uptick in employees calling out sick. The TSA had an unprecedented 10% absence rate on Monday over the holiday, reflecting about 3,000 workers, compared to 3% the same weekend a year prior.

Many federal workers have turned to food pantries and government programs to keep food on the table while without income. In one viral gesture, Canadian air traffic controllers sent pizza to their American counterparts as a goodwill gesture.

Air Canada, which flies into both LaGuardia and Newark, said Friday that it had revised its ticketing policy for customers affected by the air traffic control restrictions.

“Air Canada is monitoring the situation closely and is working to get you on your way safely and as quickly as possible,” it said.

On Thursday, JetBlue’s CEO Robin Hayes warned that the air travel network is nearing a “tipping point” as the government shutdown stretches on without an end in sight.

“Our crew members and customers are likely to face extended security lines, flight delays, and even cancellations,” Hayes said. “And the longer this goes on, the longer it will take for the air travel infrastructure to rebound.”

Lapsed food benefits for millions, courts system on the brink, and the potential for recession: other effects of the shutdown

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