A cut in federal government expenditures has created problems with air travel across the country, according to a number of national news outlets including FoxNews.com and could impact airports within the state of Idaho.
Meanwhile, United Airlines is instructing employees to inform their customers that “Washington” is to blame for the “purposeful delay” of scheduled flights.
The admonishment from United Airlines appears in an inter-corporate memo, a copy of which has been obtained by IdahoReporter.com. The memo instructs staff, in situations where flights are delayed because of controller reductions, to inform customers that the delay “is caused or made worse by the FAA's furloughs of air traffic controllers. We know this is frustrating, and are doing everything we can to minimize the impact on you. Please let Washington know the FAA's purposeful delay of your flight is unacceptable …”
“We’ve experienced no problems here thus far,” Patti Miller, spokesperson for the Boise Airport, told IdahoReporter.com. Despite long delays at several East Coast airports Monday morning, flights have mostly arrived on time and departures have not yet been affected in Boise, as airports nationwide face uncertainty amid the federal sequestration spending cuts.
In February, the U.S. Department of Transportation published a memo warning that several small, rural airports across the country could face the possibility of losing air traffic controller staffing because of sequester federal spending cuts. The cuts have targeted, among other federal agencies, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which employs air traffic controllers at more than 400 airports nationwide and airports in rural airports were expected to be the hardest hit.
Included on the FAA’s cut list of small airports back in February were Idaho Falls Regional Airport; Lewiston-Nez Perce County Airport in Lewiston; Pocatello Regional Airport; Friedman Memorial Airport in Hailey; and Joslin Field-Magic Valley Regional Airport in Twin Falls.
But despite the expectation that cuts for controllers would be limited to airports in rural regions of the country, this month the FAA ordered air traffic controllers at airports nationwide to begin taking one furlough day for every two-week pay period as a means of eliminating about $600 million from the agency’s budget. This was reported to have caused delays of several hours at several airports, including New York’s La Guardia and JFK airports, and Miami International Airport.
While Miller said to IdahoReporter.com that “things could change” at Boise Airport, she deferred further questions to Gordon Stewart, FAA manager at Boise Airport’s control tower. Stewart’s office, however, refused to answer further questions, and instead referred IdahoReporter.com to an FAA public affairs office in Seattle. IdahoReporter.com received no answer at the Seattle FAA office in Seattle.
Even some Idaho airport websites are involving themselves in the sequester cuts.
The website of the Lewiston-Nez Perce County Airport features a “save our airport” section that asks readers to contact Idaho’s congressional delegation.
The Pocatello Regional Airport’s website states, in part: “When and if the tower does close, the airport itself will remain open and continue to operate normally. The tower closure does not impair or jeopardize the safety and security of regular air service and passengers will not detect any change. Most other general aviation traffic will also be unaffected.”