Sequester cuts have had already had an impact on travel, grounding the Navy’s Blue Angels at air shows, turning Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental into a third world-like airport and delaying the opening of national parks. This week, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) began furloughs for some of its 47,000 agency employees, including 15,000 air traffic controllers. Faced with flight delays that could add up to hours, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is considering a temporary suspension of the three-hour tarmac delay rule, making air travelers the clear losers in the deal.
Just when air travelers were beginning to enjoy better on-time performance by airlines, partially fueled by the 2010 Airline Passenger Bill of Rights, evidence is mounting that U.S. airlines will experience longer and longer delays. In response, the DOT is considering an application filed by Airlines for America (A4A) and the Regional Airline Association (RAA) to suspend the three-hour tarmac delay.
That rule also requires airlines to keep toilets open, provide water and essentials for passengers held for hours on the tarmac and allow them to deplane after three hours for domestic flights and four hours on international flights.
The exemption, if granted, would greatly reduce the possibility of airlines being fined up to $27,500 per passenger.Cutbacks are estimated to delay as many as 6,700 flights each day at the nation’s 14 biggest airports said a report in the International Business Times. Airports affected include Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson, Chicago O’Hare, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami and all airports serving New York City.
History tells us that being without air traffic controllers is a bad idea, but not one that means long-term travel disruption. When President Reagan fired air traffic controllers in 1981, air travel slowed. But after supervisors and military controllers joined non-striking controllers, 80 percent of flights were operating normally.
[Photo credit – Flickr user shutterbug4000]