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Flight delays continue as airlines worry about fiscal impact

April 25, 2013|By Hugo Martin

On the fifth day of sequester budget cuts and job furloughs at air traffic control towers, airline executives complained that more flight delays could begin to impact their bottom line.

The Federal Aviation Administration reported that it had to delay 863 flights Wednesday because of staff shortages among air traffic controllers. Another 2,132 flights were delayed by severe weather and other factors.

The agency began furloughing controllers Sunday to help cut $636 million from its budget.

Hardest hit by the delays Wednesday were airports in Chicago, New York, New Jersey and Dallas.

During conference calls to discuss first-quarter earnings, several airline executives said continued flight delays could hurt their financial outlook.

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At US Airways, the delays could cost the nation's fifth-largest carrier about $250 million if the furloughs continue until the end of the year, according to Chief Executive Doug Parker.

"This is a situation that will have to be resolved," he said. "This doesn't make any sense."

In its quarterly financial report, Southwest Airlines, the nation's largest domestic carrier, also warned that impacts of sequestration could be a drain on revenue. But Southwest officials said in a statement that lower fuel prices could offset the "potential effects from government sequestration."

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