Flights delayed at major US airports due to air traffic control staff shortage
Ground traffic temporarily halted at LaGuardia
Officials with the Federal Aviation Administration said Friday they are unable to accept incoming flights at LaGuardia International Airport in New York due to a shortage of air traffic staff at facilities that control air traffic over seven states.
A stop was ordered before 10 a.m. into LaGuardia, according to CNN. Some are also being delayed at Newark Liberty Airport and Philadelphia International Airport.
FAA spokesman Gregory Martin said Friday that it had augmented staffing, rerouted traffic and increased spacing between planes as needed.
The staffing problems were at air traffic centers in Jacksonville, Florida, and a Washington D.C., center that controls high-altitude air traffic over seven states.
"We have experienced a slight increase in sick leave at two air traffic control facilities affecting New York and Florida," the FAA said in a statement.
Orlando International Airport was experiencing departure delays between 16 minutes to 30 minutes --and increasing-- due to the staffing issue at traffic control, according to flight tracking website FlightAware.com.
According to FlightAware.com, more than 400 flights were delayed across the U.S. Friday morning. Most airports affected by the air traffic control staffing shortage were experiencing delays around 15 minutes.
Travelers can check the status of their flights and airport delays at fly.faa.gov.
President Donald Trump had been briefed on airport delays amid the extended partial government shutdown, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.
"The President has been briefed and we are monitoring the ongoing delays at some airports. We are in regular contact with officials at the Department of Transportation and the FAA," Sanders said in a statement.
Trump announced Friday afternoon that a deal had been reached to reopen the government until Feb. 15.
The FAA, Transportation Security Administration and Customs and Border Patrol employees have been working without pay since the shutdown began Dec. 22.
During the shutdown, TSA has been experiencing an increasing number of workers calling in sick compared to the same time last year. TSA experienced a national rate of 7.4 percent of unscheduled absences on Tuesday, compared to a 3.2 percent rate one year ago on the same day.
Doug Lowe, a professional aviation safety specialist union representative, said he understands why employees would have to call out of work.
"Unfortuantely they had to make a decision to call out sick because of stress or, you know, not being able to make it in because they can't afford the gas," Lowe said.
He said he doesn't think the employees are calling out to make a point. Instead, he believes many workers are reaching their breaking point.
"These are people in real situations that hit (their) breaking point, and they don't know what to do because the uncertainty is so great," Lowe said.
Lowe said employees have been glued to their televisions hoping the government would pass a bill to end the shutdown.
After the president announced the deal he says will reopen the government, Lowe said he hopes a more permanent deal will be reached before another shutdown goes into effect.
"I pray that before the 15th, they come to some sort of solution so that we don't live this again. Also, once it's completely over, we have a lot of healing to do," Lowe said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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