Local News
5:08 pm
Wed April 24, 2013

FAA Furloughs Mean 'Sporadic' Delays At CLT

A control tower at an American airport.
A control tower at an American airport.
Credit Flickr/Glenn Beltz

Passengers at the Charlotte airport can expect short delays to be an ongoing but somewhat random problem. Delays have increased since the Federal Aviation Administration started furloughing workers Sunday because of the sequester.


About one of every five flights at the Charlotte airport has been delayed since the FAA started forcing some traffic controllers to take unpaid days off.

The average delay has lasted about 50 minutes, according to a WFAE analysis of data from FlightStats.com.

"There are more delays than typical, but it does seem to kind of bounce around," FlightStats spokeswoman Sarena Regazzoni said.

That's true across the country. The FAA furloughs are making for more delays but not consistent ones. Jean Medina is a spokeswoman for Airlines For America, a trade group.

"It's sporadic at best, for Charlotte and for other airports," Medina said. "We don't have any real good guidance ahead of time about where these delays are going to hit, which makes it very difficult for airlines to contingency plan."

Here's what we do know: about 10 percent of traffic controllers nationwide won't show up for work on any given day between now and September 30, the end of the federal fiscal year. That's according to the FAA.

But we don't know how those furloughs will be divided among airports. Charlotte seems to have gotten off relatively easy so far: 14 airports have had a higher percentage of flights delayed, and 21 airports have had longer average delays than Charlotte.

And when it comes to delays, furloughs are not the biggest problem.

"Weather is probably the typical biggest impact on the airline ecosystem," Regazzoni said.     

She points out there were far more delays about a week ago, before the furloughs started.

Her big concern is that a combination of bad weather and low staffing will make for even worse delays going forward.