Sequester Cuts Cause Delays at Eastern Iowa Airport

By Nadia Crow, Reporter

A US Airways plane is parked between two American Airlines planes, one bearing the new logo, (far left), and the old logo (far right). American Airlines CEO Tom Horton and US Airways CEO Doug Parker announced the merger of the two airlines during a press conference in the Terminal D Admiral's Club at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, Thursday, February 14, 2013 in Texas. (Tom Fox/Dallas Morning News/MCT)

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By Nadia Crow

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - FAA furloughs are causing flight delays at several US airports, and some eastern Iowa travelers are feeling the effect. Automatic spending cuts require all air-traffic controllers to take furlough days. The sequester has forced the Department of Transportation to cut one billion dollars from its budget. It means, 47,000 FAA employees, including 15,000 air traffic controllers, have to each take eleven days of unpaid leave before October first. Because of that, the FAA expects some 6,700 flight delays each day, nationwide.

All eyes are glued to big monitors scattered around the airport here. You can check your flight status and try your hand at predicting weather. The biggest questions people want to know when they look at this board are, “Is my flight on time and is there anything that would delay my travel plans?” And you may not know until after you take off from Cedar Rapids.

“Just relaxing and taking time with my mother and my sister taking it one day at a time,” said Hufford.

But before Solon's Tracy Hufford gets to Rome, Italy, she has to get on two planes through three airports, with the looming sequester cuts hanging over her travels.

“It made us a little nervous. We thought about taking an earlier flight, but so far so good,” said Hufford.

Leaving Eastern Iowa isn't the problem. It's getting to your connecting flight on time. And what about getting back to Cedar Rapids?

“The planes are always being watched by air traffic control. So when you have a lot of volume or weather delays, they really have to watch the separation of aircrafts,” said CID Airport Director Tim Bradshaw.

And fewer of those watchful eyes could mean more people on the ground waiting for their trip in the sky. It happened just this past weekend. Flight delays littered the jumbo screens at airports across the nation.

“The planes are full and when you have any kind of glitch in the system, it's very hard to rebook,” said Bradshaw.

Tuesday, there are no real delays to speak of at the Eastern Iowa Airport, but pending interruptions makes Hufford weary of flying.

“I hope they get it straightened out for the public because when people are flying they're spending a lot of money and we had delays before so this is only going to compound that problem,” said traveler Tracy Hufford.

And a busy summer travel season puts more pressure on Congress to make changes as tensions and frustrations from travelers climb.

Bradshaw says you should be prepared to wait, especially if you're traveling to or through New York City where most of the delays are expected. Most airlines have beefed up their online presence, so you can take your smartphone and follow your flight, check for delays, and even connect with the airlines directly.

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