Flight Crews Blame Sequester As Delays Kick In

The federal budget cuts hit air traffic controllers. “#usa #usa #usa”

The long-feared flight delays associated with automatic federal budget cuts began to kick in today, according to government officials and reports from frustrated passengers on the tarmac.

“Because of the budget cuts you’ve been hearing about, our flight is delayed. We’re supposed to take off in an hour,” a member of the flight crew on United Airlines flight 534 from New York to Los Angeles told passengers Monday morning, according to Jon Steinberg, the president of BuzzFeed, who was on the flight.

The cuts have forced the Federal Aviation Administration to put some air traffic controllers on unpaid leave, known as a furlough, to reduce costs.

Passengers took to social media to complain of the delays, reporting that flight crew on several major American carriers — including Delta Air Lines, JetBlue, American Airlines, and United Airlines — were all explicitly citing the “sequester,” as the budget cuts are known:

Finally in the air. This evening most Delta flights delayed with agents blaming the sequester for "not enough air traffic controllers"

— davidsongoldin (@Davidson Goldin)

On a @Delta flight to LGA scheduled to leave 30min ago & pilot says can't takeoff for 30 more min & "it has to do w/ the sequester nonsense"

— AlexNBCNews (@Alex Moe)

Stuck on a tarmac in @Delta plane with no ETA thanks to the sequester. #usa #usa #usa

— dgavazzi (@David Gavazzi)

Delta is announcing all their flights at SFO are delayed today because of sequester impact on FAA...

— tracybrisson (@Tracy Brisson)

@chrislhayes United Air has us delayed over two hours, crew keeps blaming sequester explicitly. Say go to http://t.co/zZ1VzO0Dwj petition.

— candrus68 (@Cody Andrus)

On my @JetBlue flight tonight the captain said we would be late into LGA because of "the sequester."

— kbalfe (@Kevin Balfe)

Air traffic controllers began going on furlough Sunday, but the Associated Press reported that delays began in earnest Monday.

Mark Duell at the flight tracking website FlightAware told the AP that John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports in New York showed delays because of low staffing starting late Sunday. The FAA said late Sunday night that staffing cuts were causing delays averaging more than three hours for flights arriving at Los Angeles International Airport. The agency did not say how many flights were affected.

The trade group representing the airlines filed a motion in federal court in an attempt to block the furloughs, and the explicit comments by pilots and flight crew members offer the airlines a way to make that case directly to their customers.

The FAA said late Sunday night that the sequester had caused delays of more than three hours on average for flights into Los Angeles International Airport, according to the AP, and its website Monday showed delays at New York City airports.

The furloughs cover some 15,000 controllers, according to the AP, and each staffer will miss one day of work every other week. The result, according to the FAA: Planes will be able to take off and land less frequently.

The delays have also, naturally, become the subject of a new line of Twitter humor:

Because of the #sequester, next weeks #NASCAR flyover will be Southwest Flight 1377 to Baltimore. @NASCARONFOX

— KingNASCARFan (@King NASCAR Fan)

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Ben Smith is the Editor-in-Chief of BuzzFeed and is based in New York.
Contact Ben Smith at ben@buzzfeed.com
Jessica Testa is a national reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Jessica Testa at jessica.testa@buzzfeed.com
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