Air Traffic Controller furloughs set to kick in Sunday - CBS46 News

Air Traffic Controller furloughs set to kick in Sunday

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Long delays are expected to follow the FAA mandatory furlough days set to start Sunday.

It could result in flight delays of more than three hours in Atlanta, as well as significant delays at major airports across the country.

Travelers at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport like Jason Gearries were quick to weigh in on the expected delays.

"With Atlanta traffic and then adding delays, you're basically shooting your whole day in the airport. That's not something I'm looking forward to at all," said Gearries.

Because of forced budget cuts, or sequestration, the FAA said it has no choice but to cut controller staffing by 10 percent across the county, and furlough days are necessary to help make it happen.

Hartsfield-Jackson is the world's busiest airport based on the number of passengers, with many of them catching connecting flights.

The FAA said five runways here may have to be closed for parts of the day, and planes arriving may have to circle longer or take longer routes in order to avoid overloading controllers. That has traveler Hilarie Yankello concerned.

"It's terrible. It's scary of all of us travelers. Who's going to be up there really watching what's going on? They're already tired, and you have cases where they're falling asleep. This is even worse," said Yankello.

Al Barry travels about 100,000 miles a year for business.

He and many others making their way in and out of Atlanta feel they'll be taking hits in time lost with delayed flights.

"I'll probably end up taking longer trips and driving to different cities and not flying between cities. So it will hurt the airlines," said Barry.

CBS Atlanta was told it's that kind of expected passenger change that sparked the airlines and the nation's largest pilots union on Friday to sue the FAA to stop the furloughs.

"We pay so much already to fly. And you already have to wait in long security lines," said Yankello.

All FAA employees are scheduled to take one furlough day every other week, through September 30.

The FAA has 47,000 employees including nearly 15,000 controllers.

The feds said along with Atlanta, significant delays are also expected in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York-area airports.

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