The political chaos over financing the construction of the wall on the border with Mexico begins to create problems at the most congested airports in the United States. The federal aviation agency (FAA) was forced to order this Friday the suspension of some flights to the New York airport of LaGuardia due to lack of personnel in the control towers. The effects were felt, in the form of delays, in other aerodromes of the east coast – Newark (New Jersey), Philadelphia and Boston.
The highest authority of the American civil aviation adopted the measure to guarantee safety since the system has a limit of stress that it can withstand. The suspension of flights lasted 45 minutes and was applied to the landings. The FAA indicated in a note that it is suffering a rebound of the losses of personnel, who have been working 35 days without receiving the payments for the partial closure of the federal government. The unions had already warned of this situation.
The FAA has only two options to maintain the highest level of safety in saturated airspace such as the New York metropolitan area: temporarily stop flights or, directly, cancel them. There is also the circumstance that the system carries personnel problems in the control towers to meet the increase in traffic. To this is added the rebound of absenteeism in the security personnel.
It is not clear if the lack of personnel is the result of a disguised protest or simply that the employees who depend on the FAA are looking for other jobs to be able to reach the end of the month, due to the financial difficulties they are going through. The level of work absenteeism will grow, therefore, as the days go by and that will create a domino effect for the whole system.
The traffic jam at airports is the most visible effect of the government’s closure and could pressure lawmakers in Washington to reach a solution. The airlines, meanwhile, have already begun to suffer losses of income due to the effect of the confrontation. But what worries them most is that this situation could have catastrophic consequences in an industry where there is zero tolerance when it comes to coping with security risks.
The first executive of Southwest – the fourth largest airline in the US and the largest among the low-cost ones Gary Kelly, made clear his concern: “It’s crazy,” he said, to govern in this way. “The FAA was already under a lot of stress before the government closed,” he recalled. “And now, even more, if the traffic is not reduced,” he warns, “then it will not be safe.” For Doug Parker, his American Airlines counterpart, he says this creates enormous inefficiency.
Kelly and Parker insist that safety is the industry’s top priority. “Longer”, they warn, “the problem will be bigger, there will be more queues at airports and more delays.” The flight attendants union issued a statement charging the legislators, saying they had already warned that this situation would be reached. ” The economy of our country is at stake, ” they say.
The controllers, according to the unions, are tired, worried and distracted by this situation. But they make it clear that they are fully committed to the safety of flights. That is why they are calling on legislators in Washington to open the government “immediately.” The White House limited itself to saying that it is aware of the situation and that it is working with the FAA to mitigate its effects.