Skift Take

Disruption at U.S. airports, IRS agents calling in sick, and the overall negative impact to the U.S. and even global economy — all these factors will pressure legislators in Washington and the current occupant of the White House to come up with a deal to end the U.S. partial government shutdown.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and published reports stated Friday that staffing shortages at La Guardia Airport and other facilities, including Newark, Philadelphia and “Florida,” disrupted flight operations because of air traffic controllers calling in sick.

Some early reports indicated that flight operations at La Guardia had been halted.

CNBC likewise reported that the delays were tied to the partial government shutdown in the U.S., which has left a variety of government workers, from air traffic controllers to TSA agents staffing airport security lanes, and national parks employees, without paychecks.

A look at the FAA flight delay information page showed extensive delays at Florida and Atlanta airports, although it was unclear if issues unrelated to the government shutdown were in play

The FAA’s flight-delay map showed arriving flights in holding patterns of 16 to 45 minutes at Miami International Airport, and Orlando Airport, as well as departure delays and taxi delays at those airports likewise experiencing delays of 16 to 45 minutes.

It appeared to be worse at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport Friday morning, although the delays were apparently related to a security issue unrelated to air traffic controller staffing shortages. The FAA map showed departure and taxi delays of greater than 45 minutes and arriving flights subject to airborne holding patterns of more than 45 minutes.

It’s possible these delays could impact flight arrivals and departures around the country Friday, depending on how long the staffing issues persist.

This disruption puts even more pressure on Congress and President Donald Trump to forge a deal to get the government open. The dispute revolves around Trump’s demand for border wall funding for a barrier along the U.S. southern border with Mexico.

President Trump was monitoring the disruption at some airports Friday morning, according to the Associated Press. And New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the flight delays at airports on the U.S. East Coast and the U.S. government shutdown overall were another sign of “federal madness.”

In Southwest Airlines’ earnings call with analysts on Thursday, CEO Gary Kelly labeled the shutdown “maddening.” Kelly pointed to the harm to his airline, which took a $10 million to $15 million revenue hit because of the shutdown in January and had to delay launching its first service to Hawaii, and the overall economy. Delta had an even larger negative impact from the shutdown, estimating it at $25 million in January.

Officials from the union that represents air traffic controllers have been making the rounds of media outlets over the last few days arguing that traveler safety is imperiled by the shutdown.

Responding to that message, the FAA tweeted Thursday that “the nation’s airspace system is safe.”


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Tags: flight delays, laguardia, shutdown

Photo credit: Operations were disrupted at La Guardia Airport in New York City Friday because of staffing issues related to the U.S. government shutdown. Pictured is the airport on July 2, 2018. David Williams / Bloomberg

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