Travelers likely to face delays at Sacramento airport and others this summer

by Tony Bizjak, Sacramento Bee

The old adage "pack your patience" may be more true than ever this summer at Sacramento International Airport and other airports nationally – the result of federal budgets cutbacks that went into effect this week.

More than one-third of departures and arrivals were delayed as of mid-day today at Sacramento International Airport. It was the third day of the Federal Aviation Administration’s federal budget furlough program.

Most of the delays at the Sacramento airport were brief, 20 minutes or less, according to flight tracking services, but a handful stretched beyond an hour.

FAA officials said this week all air traffic controllers will be furloughed one day each week as a result of across-the-board federal budget cuts from Congressional "sequestration."

The brunt of the delays reportedly are happening at major airports, according to media reports. Some were related to inclement weather in areas of the country. Smaller facilities like Sacramento reportedly are suffering a ripple effect.

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association on Tuesday claimed more than 10,000 flights had been delayed and more than 600 canceled Monday as a result of the furloughs. The union called on Congress to find a bipartisan solution to the budget stalemate.

"This is just the beginning of what promises to be a huge economic disruption if the furloughs are not stopped," NATCU said in a statement issued by spokesman Doug Church.

Sacramento airport officials did not immediately respond Tuesday to a request for comment.

Sequestration is likely lead to at least some longer lines at federal Transportation Security Administration checkpoints as well this summer, officials said.

Testifying at Congressional hearing last week, the TSA’s John Halinski said the agency has some back-up funds to keep its workforce generally intact, but he warned security lines could grow longer than usual during peak travel moments during the more crowded summer travel season arrives.

TSA officials on Tuesday announced they have postponed a plan to allow fliers to bring pocketknives on planes in their carry-on luggage or on their person. The agency had planned to begin allowing small knives, as well as ski poles, two golf clubs and other items as carry-ons, but said it was backing away to get more input from stakeholders. Flight attendants had protested the decision.