The US warned of a large scale flight delays and cancellations as a result of the sequester or the automatic spending cuts on March 1. "This also includes international travel including that to India," the US Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood, told reporters here yesterday. "Travelers should expect delays.
Flights to major cities like New York, Chicago, and San Francisco and others could experience delays of up to 90 minutes during peak hours because we have fewer staff," he said. "Delays in these major airports will ripple across the country," the Transportation Secretary said, adding that the delays and cancellation probably could be experienced from April 1 onwards. Sequester could result in a cut of $600 million for the Federal Aviation Authority, which runs the air traffic in the country, due to which a vast majority of its 47,000 employees would be furloughed one day per pay period until the end of the fiscal year. "Cuts to budgets mean preventative maintenance and quick repair of runway equipment might not be possible, which could lead to more delays" Lahood said. "Once airlines see the potential impact of these furloughs, we expect that they will change their schedules and cancel flights," he said. The Department of Transportation yesterday began discussions with unions to likely close more than 100 air traffic control towers at airports with fewer than 150,000 flight operations per year. "We're also beginning discussions with unions to eliminate midnight shifts in over 60 towers across the country," he said. The closures will impact services for commercial, general aviation, and military aircraft. "This will delay travelers and delay the critical goods and services that communities across the country need," he added. When asked by the reporters about the ways to avoid the sequester, he said, "What I'm trying to do is to wake up members of the Congress on the Republican side to the idea that they need to come to the table, offer a proposal so that we don't have to have this kind of calamity in the air service in America".