Air traffic controller furloughs frustrate fliers

6:11 PM, Apr 22, 2013   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida - With fewer air traffic controllers manning towers across the country, travelers should prepare to assume the position... the waiting position.

That's all Phyllis Carlson can do after her flight from Tampa to LA was delayed, leaving her with a wait of more than three hours.

"It's a long time in the airport, but it is what it is," she says, stretching out on a couch and planning a nap.

There's an awful lot of "red" on the signs at TIA. Both the departure and arrival signs are dotted with the word "delayed." Airport officials say a combo of bad weather on the East Coast and probable staffing problems are to blame.

Talk to most any flier and they'll report some version of this. "It was very frustrating. We got on the plane and we sat there and sat there," described Kim Hirsch, coming in from Detroit.

Because of sequestration, all FAA employees, including some 15,000 controllers, are subject to furloughs. They'll lose a day of work every other week.

At Tampa International on Monday, Governor Rick Scott told reporters that the furloughs could harm the state's economy.

"It's going to impact people's interest in coming to the state because of delays. It's going to impact business in our state. It's absolutely the wrong thing to do," said Scott, who urged people to call the White House and complain.

Pat McCormick, a former air traffic controller, says the delays indicate controllers are managing by slowing takeoffs and landings and he says that's a good thing for safety. However, he says in general, the across the board cuts do the opposite.

"They've taken a cookie cutter approach for the budget and turned a blind eye to aviation safety," says McCormick who is now an aviation safety consultant.

And in the end, for some travelers, these decisions made in Washington just don't fly.

"Oh yeah, there was a lot of ways they could have fixed this instead going to the whole sequester and the furlough," says Mike Birch, whose flight was delayed in Detroit. "But I guess that's the way American politics works."

To find out what kind of delays are happening at airports across the country click here.

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