FAA Furloughs Slow Some Flights for Fourth Straight Day

Some passengers encountered tardy flights in Los Angeles and Chicago because of a shortage of air-traffic controllers, as US Airways Group Inc.’s chief executive officer said the delays may sap travel demand.

“That certainly will happen at some point,” CEO Doug Parker said today in an interview. “If we see people not traveling, the industry will need to respond by reducing capacity. That would be a crying shame because there is no need for it. Capacity would be reduced by a lack of controllers, not a lack of demand.”

Detroit’s airport, a Delta Air Lines Inc. hub, had half-hour delays due to staff shortages as of 3:30 p.m. local time, the Federal Aviation Administration’s travel website showed. Chicago O’Hare and Los Angeles International had furlough-related delays earlier in the day, the site showed.

Those disruptions on the fourth day of congestion tied to FAA layoffs under automatic U.S. spending cuts weren’t as broad as those this week in New York, the nation’s busiest travel market. New York-area airports had two-hour delays as winds and peak Monday morning travel compounded the controller shortages.

US Airways hasn’t yet seen passengers canceling travel plans due to delays, according to Parker, who is poised to become the CEO of the world’s largest carrier, as he completes a merger with AMR Corp.’s American Airlines.

“I hope we don’t get to that point,” he said in the interview in Scottsdale, Arizona, near US Airways’ headquarters in the Phoenix suburb of Tempe.

Weather Delays

Weather was chiefly to blame for tardy flights today at New York airports, the FAA website showed, with some arrivals at John F. Kennedy International averaging two hours late and LaGuardia running an hour behind as of 4:30 p.m local time.

More than 1,025 flights were delayed yesterday because of the staffing reductions, the FAA said. Executives at Delta and Southwest Airlines Co. have also criticized the furloughs, saying the disruptions are unsustainable.

Controller layoffs under the government’s automatic spending cuts “will have no effect on safety,” FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said today at a congressional hearing in Washington. “What will suffer is efficiency.”

The FAA said last week that delays may reach more than two hours with fewer controllers on duty because of cutbacks known as sequestration. An average of about 10 percent of controllers will be on furlough on any given day, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association estimated.

Huerta’s testimony to the U.S. House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the FAA budget came on the fourth day of flight delays after the furloughs began. The layoffs were a response to automatic budget cuts that were the penalty agreed to by President Barack Obama and Congress after failed debt-reduction talks in 2011.

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