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Federal furloughs don’t delay flights at Charlotte Douglas airport Sunday

By Cleve R. Wootson Jr.
cwootson@charlotteobserver.com

No significant delays were reported Sunday at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, despite the beginning of mandatory furloughs for air traffic controllers.

Like most of the country on Sunday, Charlotte’s status was green, an FAA label indicating delays of 15 minutes or less. Flight traffic at some airports in Florida was delayed because of thunderstorms, and runway construction slowed flights in San Francisco, according to the FAA.

But vehicle traffic flowed smoothly at Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Lines inside the terminal didn’t appear to be longer than normal. An airport spokesman did not immediately return a message seeking comment. A USAirways spokesperson said there were “no delays that are out of the ordinary today.”

Monday, one of the busiest travel days of the week, especially for business travelers, could present another test for airports in cities across the United States, including Charlotte.

Last week, Michael Huerta, the head of the Federal Aviation Administration, warned the public to expect flight delays as furloughs began. The effects, Huerta said, would be felt unevenly across the country because each airport’s operations are unique.

Without the furloughs, FAA officials could find no way to cut $637 million from the agency’s budget as required by automatic, across-the-board spending cuts approved by Congress, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Huerta have said.

The FAA has 47,000 employees, including nearly 15,000 controllers. Employees are scheduled for one furlough day every other week between now and Sept. 30, according to the Associated Press. That will reduce the number of controllers on duty at any time by 10 percent.

Controllers at Charlotte Douglas International Airport have said the furloughs mean there will be four fewer controllers on each shift in Charlotte. Currently, 21 controllers staff a full shift.

Huerta said it will be necessary to slow down operations in order to maintain safety, which will create traffic delays.

A spokeswoman for Airlines for America, a trade association for the airline industry, has said the furloughs are unnecessary, and airlines are considering suing the government.

The Associated Press contributed.

Wootson: 704-358-5046; Twitter: @CleveWootson
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