Roanoke, VA - As if flying isn't stressful enough, it just got worse. All along the Eastern Seaboard, passengers are sitting around waiting for their planes. The sequestration, or mandatory budget cuts, is to blame. Even the FAA is warning travelers to expect "a wide range of delays."
We were talking about sequestration a whole month ago, and it hasn't gone away. One month ago, when lawmakers in D.C. couldn't agree on a plan to reduce the deficit, sequestration started. And, now it's hitting the FAA and some airports especially hard.
Clear skies ahead over Roanoke Regional, but on the ground a storm is brewing. On any given day, nationwide, 10% of FAA staff will get furloughed. That could mean fewer people working the control towers, and fewer people inspecting the planes. All that spells delays for passengers like Alison Rust.
"Hopefully, everything will be cleared up soon because I travel a lot for business and I depend on everything to be on time for my meetings," said Rust.
At Roanoke Regional, for the most part, flights are running on time. But, we can't say the same for the big city airports.
"The bigger airports are going to have the issues like LaGuardia, Atlanta, Chicago," said Amanda DeHaven, communications & marketing coordinator, Roanoke Regional Airport.
Amanda DeHaven predicts delays in bigger cities will trickle down to us. A weekend flight to LaGuardia was already delayed by more than an hour - and Roanoke's hands are tied.
"It is hard for us, because there's not a whole lot we can do. A lot of it is out of our control and in the hands of the people in Washington," said DeHaven.
So far, Washington's solution has been "traffic management initiatives." For example, the FAA's spacing planes further apart to compensate for short-staffing.
Congressman Bob Goodlatte gives these budget cuts a little perspective, telling ABC 13, "If you look at it across the entire federal budget, it's less than 2% of all federal government spending."
But, tell that to Rust who just wants her plane to get her to her meeting on time.
"Are you about sick of hearing about the sequester?" we asked Rust. "Yes, I am sick of it," she replied.
ABC 13 also checked out Lynchburg Regional Airport, and flights leaving Lynchburg heading to Charlotte are running on time. But, Charlotte is a different case. According to the FAA's website, that airport is having staffing challenges due to these furloughs.