United States sequester reduces available staff
The failure of the US Congress and White House to agree on a long-term deficit-reduction plan is causing flight delays at various American hubs.
And that could be bad news for Cayman’s tourism product.
“Delays in arrivals to the Cayman Islands is always a challenging situation,” said Jane van der Bol of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association, which represents around 250 tourism-related businesses.
“Delays affect behaviours and tension rises. Disruptions become unbearable and people’s patience becomes short. Continued delays will affect flight scheduling and planning for future trips.
“If the US Federal Aviation Administration budget cuts continue to affect the tourism product, mainly flights and airport experiences, people will start to rethink about travelling. This could seriously affect our stay-over numbers that have finally started to show an increase.” The FAA kept planes on the ground because there weren’t enough controllers to monitor busy air corridors, according to The Associated Press. Cascading delays at some of the busiest US airports held up many flights into New York, Baltimore and Washington by more than two hours on Monday.
Monday is typically one of the busiest days at airports with many high-paying business travellers departing for a week on the road. The Federal Aviation Administration’s controller cuts — a 10 per cent reduction of its staff — went into effect Sunday. The full force was not felt until Monday morning.
The shortage of controllers could persist for months, raising the risk of a turbulent summer travel season. And it could exacerbate weather problems, especially spring and summer thunderstorms.
There’s no way for passengers to tell in advance which airport or flights will experience delays.
Many flights heading to Florida were seeing delays of up to an hour. By late Monday, delays into Los Angeles were expected to average three hours.
Ms van der Bol noted that to date there had not been any official complaints from tourism association members or tourists.
“[However], we see this as a very sensitive issue and encourage the international airlines to continue their requests of encouraging the FAA and other associations to make travel for passengers safe and convenient,” she counselled.
Salaries dominate budget
Federal Aviation Administration officials have said they have no choice but to furlough all 47,000 agency employees — including nearly 15,000 controllers — because the agency’s budget is dominated by salaries. Each employee will lose one day of work every other week. The aviation administration has said that planes will have to take off and land less frequently, so as not to overload the remaining controllers on duty.
Critics have said the FAA could reduce its budget in other spots that wouldn’t delay travellers.
“There’s a lot finger-pointing going on, but the simple truth is that it is Congress’s job to fix this,” said Rep. Rick Larsen, a Washington Democrat and member of the House aviation panel.
“Flight delays are just the latest example of how the sequester is damaging the economy and hurting families across the country.”
Some travel groups have warned that the disruptions could hurt the economy.
“If these disruptions unfold as predicted, business travellers will stay home, severely impacting not only the travel industry but the economy overall,” the Global Business Travel Association warned the head of the Federal Aviation Administration, Michael P. Huerta, in a letter Friday.
The country’s airlines and some lawmakers have suggested the White House is causing misery for fliers to put pressure on Republicans in Congress to rescind the cuts.
In a letter to the aviation administration Friday, Delta general counsel Ben Hirst asked the agency to reconsider the furloughs, saying it could make the cuts elsewhere and transfer funds from “non-safety activities” to support The Federal Aviation Administration’s “core mission of efficiently managing the nation’s airspace.”