April 29, 2013
Something has to give when it comes to the FAA's decision to furlough all of the nation's air traffic controllers, at the risk of causing thousands more daily flight delays because there will not be enough controllers on duty to handle the normal amount of peak-hour traffic.
What gives could be the Republicans in Congress, who do not want to strike a deal with President Obama and the Democrats for a broad tax-and-spending deal that would replace all of the mandatory, sequester-driven cuts in the fiscal 2013 federal budget.
Or it could be Obama and the Democrats, many of whom do not want to agree to a piecemeal solution to stop or reduce the furloughs while leaving the rest of the sequester intact. Some already have begun signing on to bipartisan proposals to do just that.
It could be the FAA, which insists the Budget Control Act that mandates indiscriminate, across-the-board federal budget spending cuts in the form of the sequester does not give it the flexibility to avoid furloughs. Airlines for America (A4A), the Regional Airline Association and Air Line Pilots Association filed a lawsuit arguing that the FAA does have that flexibility and must be ordered to reverse its action.
Or it could be the airlines, which are siding with Republicans by blaming the FAA: Along with the lawsuit, A4A is campaigning against “FAA-imposed delays.” But the industry also is asking the FAA to broker airline agreements to mutually cut their capacity at large airports that are expected to suffer the most delays due to reduced staffing.
The airlines have the most to lose in the standoff, which threatens to wreak havoc with the busy summer travel season and may dramatically increase the number of flight delays before then.
On April 21, the FAA began implementing the furloughs, requiring operations personnel—including about 13,000 controllers—to take off one of every 10 workdays through the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year.