Sunday , June 20 2021

The FAA argues that the increase in sick leave causes flight delays – Boston Herald



From DAVID KOENIG

Passengers suffered a long delay in northeast flights, while federal authorities were struggling with a shortage of flight managers who missed their salary on Friday due to the partial shutdown of the government.

New York's LaGuardia Airport and Newark International Airport in New Jersey were hardest hit, but delays across the country were mixed.

Breaks are the strongest evidence that the 35-day government closure threatens to devastate the national air transport system.

Air traffic controllers and airport security agents work unpaid as federal stops began in December, and absenteeism leads to longer flights at airports.

The Federal Aviation Administration saw delays on Friday due to a "slight increase in sick leave" at the air traffic control centers that run traffic across New York and Florida, agency spokesman Gregory Martin said. He said the FAA was adapting to meet available staff by, inter alia, rerouting flights and putting more space between airplanes in the air.

At the center of Lisburn, Virginia, six of the 13 monitors scheduled to work on Friday were absent. This center manages air traffic on its way to and from New York and the Mid-Atlantic countries.

The result is "minimal impact on efficiency", while maintaining safety, Martin said.

President Donald Trump was informed of the situation.

"The president has been informed and we are watching the continuing delays of some airports," said spokeswoman Sarah Sanders. "We are in regular contact with officials in the Ministry of Transport and the FAA."

In LaGuardia, passengers learned about the delayed flight of messages on the PA systems.

"He finally shut the door," said Sanjay Shetty, a management consultant from Ann Arbor, Michigan, waiting for a delayed flight to Detroit.

Sheetti tried to shrink. "I travel every week and nothing surprised me.

By early afternoon, more than 2400 US flights were delayed, according to the FlightAware tracking service, although the situation seemed to improve earlier in the day.

The closure of the government is now the longest since Trump and Congress Democrats continue to be blocked by the President's request for $ 5.7 billion to build part of a barrier on the border with Mexico. Around 420,000 civil servants, including TSA air traffic controllers and agents, work on a pay-as-you-go basis; another 380 000 are wrapped.

They will be paid after the suspension is over, but in the meantime many describe the financial difficulties, rely on food banks and worry about whether they can pay the rent or mortgage.

The National Air Traffic Control Association said the staff were already 30 years old before the shutdown, forcing the controllers to work extraordinary and six-day weeks.

Union President Paul Rinaldi said on Friday that the Alliance does not approve coordinated action that would reduce the capacity of national airspace. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan sacked air traffic controllers who had made an illegal strike, causing a serious and long-lasting defeat to organized labor.

Rinaldi, however, added that the Union has warned of the possible consequences of a prolonged suspension of the government.

"Many controllers have reached the point of exhaustion, stress and anxiety caused by this shutdown," says Rinaldi. With every passing hour, the situation is getting worse, he said.

The FAA does not indicate how many controllers are missing. The Transport Security Administration said 7.6 percent of airport screens planned to operate on Thursday did not appear compared to 10 percent last Sunday's peak, but more than double the 3 percent absence on the same day last year.

Hartsfield-Jackson International Atlanta Airport had the maximum time to wait on Thursday for 42 minutes, the highest of the 42 largest airports in the country, the TSA statement said on Friday.

Baltimore / Washington International Turgut Marshall had the second longest waiting time of 19 minutes.

As for several days, TSA added that many observers say they can not count for work due to financial strain.

TSA is moving agents at airports where there is a shortage and sometimes consolidation of checkpoints to prevent lines becoming too long.

The situation is almost certain that worsening long-term aviation workers will worsen.

"There are places where FAA engineers have left, TSA agents have given up, air traffic controllers have given up. It's going to happen, "said Chuck Banks, Florida's FAO Safety Inspector. "We were already expensive in all areas."

With the spread of news for Friday's interference, AIU leaders sent a message: I told you so.

"This is exactly what AFA and other aviation alliances have warned to happen," said Sarah Nelson, chairman of the Air Crew Association. Government workers are "tired, disturbed and distracted, but they will not risk our safety," and instead keep some airplanes on the ground, she said.

Airlines have responded cautiously to breaks on Friday, trying to avoid the concerns of their customers.

Delta Air Lines had about 200 flights delayed in La Guardia and other airports in northeastern Europe on Friday morning, a spokesman said.

In a statement, a spokesman for United Airlines said the carrier is working with FAAs and airports to minimize impacts on flights and passengers.

"At this point, we do not expect significant schedule breaks, but this is another good illustration of the growing impact of government closure and the need for the federal government to reopen immediately," United said.

Even before Friday, airline executives warned of turbulence by stopping.

Delta said he would lose $ 25 million this month for exclusion, which is based on many federal employees and contractors. Southwest Airlines Chief Executive Gary Kelley called the damping of the shutdown and said his airline had already lost up to $ 15 million.

"It's crazy," Kelley told analysts and reporters on Thursday. – It just has to be over. If it remains, it will harm the economy will harm the air transport. "

Robin Hayes, CEO of JetBlue Airways, said: "We are near a turning point," as government workers were struggling with missing salaries for the second time in January. "The longer that lasts, the longer it will take away the restoration of air transport infrastructure."

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Jennifer Pelz and Killy Armstrong in New York contributed to this report.

David Koenig can be found at http://twitter.com/airlinewriter


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