Thus far, fears about the budget sequester have talked about much but were not experienced by the majority of Americans. But on Monday one of the more visible aspects of the sequester began to hit one place that many Americans will visit this year: the airport.
The Federal Aviation Authority implemented on Monday the first of its furlough days for air traffic controllers. Thousands of air traffic controllers were forced to take unpaid days off due to the mandatory budget cuts implemented by the budget sequester. The furlough will cover all 47,000 agency employees, including 15,00 air traffic controllers. Things will only get more hectic from here as the more visible budgets cuts begin to come into view.
Flights all over the East Coast reported major delays. The lack of 1,500 air traffic controllers due to the sequester on Monday meant that flights got delayed. New York’s LaGuardia airport saw delays of 90 minutes. Delays in airports lead to a domino effect of delays in other airports as controllers could not allow planes to takeoff due to air traffic jams at destination airports. It was reported that, in the case of one flight, it would have been faster to buy a ticket on the 8:00 a.m. Acela express train from Washington to New York then to take an 8 a.m. US Airways flight. The train arrived at 10:42 a.m., 4 minutes early. The flight was over two and half hours late, landing at 10:48 a.m.
Unhappy travellers took to pulling out their smartphones and informing social media of their plight, in violation of the requests from the cabin crew to turn off your electronic devices when the plane doors close:
Further delays are expected when other organizationa implement such cost-cutting measures. A big question mark has been what will happen when the Transport Security Administration implements its sequester cuts. The TSA have said that they will avoid furloughs and focus on a different cost cutting strategy, like the elimination of overtime. Overtime is utilized by the TSA to manage overflow times when large amounts of travellers take flights all around the country, such as Memorial Day and the summer months. With no overtime, travellers can expect to see longer lines during busy travel times if the sequester is not resolved by then.
Some agencies managed to get special approval from Congress to beat the sequester. There was widespread speculation that meat inspectors would be furloughed due to the sequester. This would have had major effects upon the meat industry, as a meat inspector is required to in a plant to inspect its operations every time it is operating by law. The meat industry was worried that they would have to close down production and lose money so they did what the agricultural lobby does best and make themselves know to Congress. Congress passed an exception that stopped furloughs. Instead the money was found by stopping $30 million in maintenance of USDA buildings and $25 million for a program to upgrade kitchen equipment for schools.
As the sequester cuts continue to manifest themselves in visible ways to the pubic, President Obama and Congress seem to be no further towards a solution then when the issue of the cuts first arose in March. Time will tell if late flights and longer lines in security will provide the needed push for negotiations to proceed.