Flights delayed at Newark, LaGuardia, Philly airports from 'sick leave' staffing shortage

Air Traffic Controllers Warn of 'Unprecedented' Safety Risk As Government Shutdown Continues

Air traffic controllers, forced to take second jobs, warn of "unprecedented" shutdown risk

The Federal Aviation Administration temporarily halted flights into New York's LaGuardia Airport on Friday due to a staffing shortage during the government shutdown, Bloomberg reports.

Delays are being reported at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Dulles International Airport and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, including flights to LaGuardia that are delayed by more than one hour, according to the FAA.

"We have experienced a slight increase in sick leave at two air traffic control facilities affecting NY and Florida", the agency said.

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association's (NATCA) President Paul Rinaldi issued a statement on Friday saying the union does not endorse coordinated absences.

Flights that have already departed for New York City and Florida will land, but flights that have yet to take off are being cancelled and delayed en masse.

Air traffic controllers have been working without pay since the partial federal shutdown.

Scott Stephenson, an Oklahoma native, got a job as an Air Traffic Control Specialist at Capital Region International Airport in December 2018.

"Enough is enough", declared MoveOn.org, demanding that Trump and McConnell work to immediately reopen the government.

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FAA spokesman Gregory Martin said Friday that it had augmented staffing, rerouted traffic and increased spacing between planes as needed.

But, increasingly, it seems that a solution could be pushed on Trump from outside industry - specifically from the airport, where everyone from CEOs to air traffic controllers is furious with the shutdown's effects on flight safety, or for simply not getting paid. There has been a growing staffing problem as the shutdown is now 35 days long and some employees have missed two pay checks.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Twitter that the shutdown is "pushing our airspace to the breaking point". Each passing hour makes the situation worse, he said. Airport employees across the country have failed to show up to work the past month of the partial government shutdown. While it's legally possible for Congress to pass a bill that would pay controllers, it's more likely that politicians will use travel delays as a bargaining chip in the ongoing battle over reopening the government.

A screen grab from a traveler's smartphone airline app shows a two-hour delay for the departure of their flight from LaGuardia Airport to Detroit on January 25, 2019. "We were already short-handed in all areas".

Marisa Rizzuti was one of the fliers affected by the delays.

Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport had the second-longest wait time, of 19 minutes.

The people directly responsible for the safety of airline passengers in the United States are issuing a dire warning about the state of air travel during the shutdown. "I'm proud our workforce flexed some muscle today", they said after Trump's announcement.

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