AviationAirlines ask court to stop FAA furloughs

Published 22 April 2013

The FAA’s annual budget is $16 billion. As part of the sequester, the agency must reduce its budget by $637 million between now and the end of September. The agency says that the only way it can achieve these saving is by imposing a 2-week furlough on its 47,000 employees – including 15,000 air traffic controllers. A coalition of U.S. airlines has petitioned a federal court to stop the furloughs, which began yesterday, saying they would leas to the cancellation of 6,700 flights a day.

Last Friday U.S. airlines  petitioned a federal court to stop the furloughs of air traffic controllers, saying the two-week layoffs may  delay 6,700 flights per day, with passengers waiting up to four hours.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) started the Furloughs yesterday as part of the federal budget cuts required by sequestration. CNN reports that according to the FAA, all 47,000 of its employees, which includes 15,000 air traffic controllers, must be furloughed as part of $637 million in budget cuts between now and the end of September. The FAA’s annual budget is $16 billion.

“We cannot avoid furloughs,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said this week.

The FAA also said the impact of the furloughs could be felt as early as today. Airline companies however, say that the cuts are “based on a false legal premise — that Congress has required the precise cuts that (the FAA has) ordered. However, the Budget Control Act does nothing of the sort,” the airlines state in court documents.

The carriers say that the cuts can be made elsewhere and spare citizens the aggravation it will be subjected to when the controllers stay home.

CNN notes that the motion in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia was filed by Airlines for America (A4A), a trade association representing major airlines, the Regional Airline Association, and the Air Line Pilots Association, a group representing unionized pilots.

The airlines said they will make a push for congressional legislation making air controllers “essential” employees, thus making them exempt from furloughs, and has asked the Obama administration for a 30-day delay of the furloughs so it could consider the situation with Congress.

“We continue to believe that the FAA has other means to reach a 10 percent budget reduction than to impact the traveling public,” A4A president Nick Calio said in a statement.

“When a company needs to make a 10 percent budget reduction, the answer is not to make it is so inefficient that no one wants to do business with it anymore. That’s essentially what the FAA is proposing,” Calio added.

A group of aviation associations is also asking the White House to give the FAA funding flexibility.

“While other federal agencies, such as the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Customs and Border Protection (CPB), Meat Inspectors (USDA) and Bureau of Prisons (DOJ), have taken steps to avoid furloughing their essential operational personnel, the FAA believes they have not been given the same flexibility,” the group wrote in a letter to White House chief of staff Denis McDonough.