Budget Sequestration Blues: American Air Travelers, Be Prepared For Longer Lines

on February 22 2013 8:15 AM

If complaining about air travel is practically a national pastime for business travelers, then they'll have a field day if budget sequestration -- which could begin a week from today -- causes longer lines at airport security checks.

But why?

Once the ticking time bomb that is sequestion -- namely, the approximately $85 billion in across-the-board federal government spending -- goes off, the Federal Aviation Administration will implement a one-day furlough for each of its roughly 47,000 employees. This means fewer air traffic controllers and staff at security lines and longer waits to take off your shoes to make sure you're not the next Richard Reid.

In order to address the problem of fewer air traffic controllers, the FAA has said it will likely have to implement the same procedures it currently applies to in bad weather conditions indefinitely: increase the gap between the planes that are lined up for their turn to land.

This distance between planes would be lengthened, from between six and seven miles to possibly as much as 20 miles between planes, according to the New York Times. That would mean planes waiting for takeoff would have to wait longer at gates or in transit to the takeoff runways.

Meanwhile, fewer Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees would mean longer lines and added pressure to get often impatient air travellers through security checkpoints.

"I wouldn't be very happy," said flyer Donna Sutton, speaking to WJXT News4 in Jacksonville, Fla. "I wouldn't be a satisfied traveler and I don't think this would be good for people who could lose their jobs."

The furloughs would begin as early as April if sequestration occurs, and they would be in full effect during the 2013 peak summer travel season.

But not everyone is unhappy at the prospect of fewer TSA agents, who already have a somewhat notorious reputation.Here’s a sampler from the Twittersphere regarding furloughs to TSA agents:

@rick_wiley: Funny how WH talks of poor service by TSA b/c of sequester. Has anyone every accused them of having good service?

@ItsAGreenOne: I have the solution to the #sequester... Return the TSA to clinton era funding levels.

@JimDuncan: Why not sequester the TSA agents instead of folks in useful sectors of the government?

@tomselliot: I just came up w/ a great idea for avoiding the screening delays the TSA warns are coming w/ the sequester: Scrap the TSA! Saves even more $

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