Airport delays blamed on staffing shortfalls

Flights arriving at several airports in the Northeast were being delayed Friday morning because of air traffic control staffing issues at air traffic centers in Jacksonville, Florida, and a Washington, D.C., center that controls high-altitude air traffic over seven states.

The FAA said that a Traffic Management Program (ground stop) was in effect for traffic arriving at New York City's LaGuardia Airport and that inbound flights were delayed an average of 41 minutes.

The FAA said that travelers should check with their departure airport to see if they may be affected. There were also gate hold and taxi delays between 15 minutes and 29 minutes in length at the airport.

Newark International Airport was also affected by up to 44-minute taxi and gate hold delays.


Delays were also reported at other airports in the Northeast, including Philadelphia, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Dulles International Airport, and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.

The FAA issued a statement saying: "We have experienced a slight increase in sick leave at two facilities. We are mitigating the impact by augmenting staffing, rerouting traffic, and increasing spacing between aircraft when needed."

The White House says President Trump had been briefed on the situation and was in regular contact with officials at the Department of Transportation and the FAA.

Air traffic controllers have been working without pay since the partial federal shutdown. The staffing problem has been growing as the shutdown has lasted 35 days and some employees have missed two paychecks.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo wrote a letter to President Trump on Friday demanding the reopening of the government in the name of safety for the flying public.

He wrote: "Among air traffic controllers, who are responsible for the safe flow of planes on the ground and in the air, staffing was already at record lows before the shutdown and the shutdown has only exacerbated the problem and increased pressure on staffing even further. At the same time, the FAA has scaled back critical safety measures, ceasing a program to deploy personnel overseas to conduct safety inspections on passenger jets destined for the United States."

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has also been dealing with a shortage of workers that has created longer waits at airport security. On Thursday the TSA said that it had 7.6% of its workers call out with unscheduled absences. That is more than double the number from a year ago. The agency says that many employees are reporting that they are not able to report to work due to financial limitations.