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Sequester Budget Cuts To Hit FAA, May Trigger Nationwide Delays

Sen. Charles Schumer holds a press conference on the sequester and furloughs of air traffic controllers. April 21, 2013. (credit: Monica Miller/WCBS 880)

Sen. Charles Schumer holds a press conference on the sequester and furloughs of air traffic controllers. April 21, 2013. (credit: Monica Miller/WCBS 880)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – If the federal budget cuts known as the sequester have not affected you yet, the $637 million trimming of the Federal Aviation Administration budget might change that.

As CBS 2’s Steve Langford reported, delays at the airport as a result of air traffic control cuts taking effect Sunday may give a whole new meaning to the term “terminal.”

Fewer people on duty in the air traffic control towers will mean fewer planes in the air – making more travelers have to hang around the terminal longer. The slowdown will hit the Tri-State Area’s three main airports and every other one in the country, with the sequester having sharpened the spending scythe in Washington.

Under the budget cuts, air traffic controllers will have to take one day every other week without pay until the end of September.

The furloughs for employees of the Federal Aviation Administration mean one in three passengers nationwide could face delays.

And the FAA has issued its predictions for the average expected delays at New York area airports because of the cutbacks – 20-minute delays at Newark Liberty International Airport, and 30 minutes expected at LaGuardia Airport, but just 12 minutes here at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

“I can’t imagine it getting any more delayed at LaGuardia,” flier Bob Bennett told CBS 2’s Janelle Burrell. “Just an incredibly difficult airport because of the congestion.”

The $637 million budget reduction to the FAA is due to take effect as part of the across the board spending cuts that began in March.

Congress failed to act to prevent $85 billion in cuts from taking hold.

About 50,000 FAA employees including 15,000 air traffic controllers are affected in all. And U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is not happy about it.

“New York State, under sequester, is supposed to lose about 60 to 80 air traffic controllers each day,” he said.

Schumer said the air traffic control cuts may hurt the local economy if visitors have trouble getting to the New York City area, 1010 WINS’ Gene Michaels reported

“When people decide not to fly here, they don’t spend money at the hotels, they don’t eat at the restaurants,” Schumer said.

He has called on his colleagues from both sides of the aisle to reach a compromise budget deal.

“It should be a first order of business when Congress gets back to try to end the sequestration,” said Schumer.

Two airline trade associations and the country’s largest pilots union have a filed a lawsuit arguing that cuts could be made elsewhere.

But the earliest any action will take place is later in the week.

The FAA has not commented on the lawsuit.

In the meantime, passengers traveling at the nation’s largest airports are being advised to allot extra time.

“It’s annoying, but if it helps to force Congress to reach some hard decisions, that is a good thing,” an air traveler said.

While the wait times at the three major New York-area airports tops out at about an hour and a half, some estimates show flights could be delayed up to three hours in Atlanta due to the cuts, Burrell reported.

Are you confident Congress will act to end the sequester any time soon? Sound off in the comments section below…