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Air travel set to slow during sequestration

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Expect air travel to slow down should the sequester occur as planned on March 1, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood warned during a Feb. 22 White House press conference.

Flights to New York, Chicago, San Francisco and other cities "could experience delays of up to 90 minutes during peak hours because we have fewer controllers on staff," LaHood said, noting that delays in those major hub airports would ripple outward across the country.

In addition, sequester-induced cuts to the Federal Aviation Administration budget amounting to $600 million over the remainder of the fiscal year could mean that preventative maintenance and quick repair of runway equipment wouldn't be possible, LaHood said.

"Once airlines see the potential impact of these furloughs, we expect that they will change their schedules and cancel flights," he said, stating that nearly all 47,000 FAA employees would have to take one to two unpaid days off from work every two weeks.

The sequester is set to occur March 1 but the earliest the traveling public would feel its effects would be in April; agencies must give federal employees a 30-day advance notification of furloughs.

The across-the-board cuts would also result in the likely closure of more than 100 air traffic control towers at airports with fewer than 150,000 flight operations per year, and elimination of midnight shifts in more than 60 towers, with the effects felt by commercial, general aviation and military aircraft.

For more:
- read a transcript of Ray LaHood's Feb. 22 press conference

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