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Air traffic controllers' furloughs end

Flight delays rose during the furloughs, which began April 21 and resulted from the sequester spending cuts.

April 29, 2013|By Hugo Martín, Los Angeles Times
  • A traveler, right, waits at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
A traveler, right, waits at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International… (David Goldman, Associated…)

The furloughed air traffic controllers are back at work, and now the nation's airlines can blame only bad weather for delays in getting you to your destination.

The furloughs that began about a week ago — delaying hundreds of planes across the country — ended this weekend after Congress passed legislation allowing the Federal Aviation Administration to use infrastructure improvement funds to pay for workers' salaries.

The number of delays ranged from about 4,800 on the first day of the furloughs, April 21, to slightly more than 7,000 the following Monday, a heavy travel day, according to FlightStats, a website that monitors airline flight delays and cancellations.

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The FAA put an end to the furloughs shortly after Congress passed legislation to give the agency the flexibility to make budget cuts, required by the so-called sequester, without furloughs.

But the damage was already done, according to a trade group for the nation's largest airlines. Airlines for America estimates that the industry lost about $6 million in revenue for every day of delays.

On April 22 — the first weekday after the furloughs began — the average on-time rating for the nation's airlines dropped to 73%, compared with 82% the previous Monday, according to FlightStats.

Several of the busiest airports were hit particularly hard, including Los Angeles International; New York's John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia; New Jersey's Newark Liberty International; Chicago O'Hare International; and Florida's Orlando International.

By Sunday, the average on-time rating for the nation's airlines rose back to 84%, with a total of about 4,800 flight delays across the country, according to FlightStats. On Monday morning, delays of up to one hour were attributed to heavy cloud cover at Philadelphia and Newark Liberty international airports.

Nicholas E. Calio, president of Airlines for America, called the legislation that ended the furloughs a "bipartisan, common-sense approach to restore efficiency to the nation's skies and put air traffic controllers back where they belong, in the tower."

hugo.martin@latimes.com

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