AviationFAA gave bonuses to employees while flights were delayed or canceled

Published 17 May 2013

Internal FAA documents show that in early February, while passengers got stranded at airports across the country because sequester-mandated cuts in the FAA budget which led the agency to furlough air-traffic controllers, FAA employees received bonuses for their performance on the job.

Earlier this year the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said that flight delays due to air-traffic controller cuts were unavoidable because of the federal budget cuts. The Wall Street Journal reports it has obtained an internal document that tells a different story.

The WSJ notes that on 14 January, FAA administrator Michael Huerta notified employees that the agency would begin awarding bonuses to employees who met or exceeded certain benchmarks.

Organizational Success Increases (OSIs) boosted salaries by 1 percent, and pay hikes from Superior Contribution Increases (SCIs) ranged from 0.6 to 1.8 percent. The bonus programs were available to most employees, and the bonuses were being awarded beginning in February, just two months before the air-traffic controller cuts started.

The bonuses came as a surprise to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who sent a memo in September 2012 to FAA officials telling them not to award OSI or SCI bonuses. He also told senior officials to plan ahead and manage funds in case there was no budget resolution and the sequester kicked in.

A transportation spokeswoman told WSJ  that LaHood’s directive was the beginning of the agency’s fiscal planning, not the end, and that “the small pay increases in question average 1.6 percent” and went to “about a quarter of FAA employees” because the agency “met more than 93 percent of its performance goals” for fiscal 2012.

After about a week-and-a-half of flight delays and cancellations, Congress passed, and President Obama signed, an order allowing the FAA to shift budget cuts to other areas of the agency in order to get the air -traffic controllers back to their towers.