According to the American Federal Aviation Administration, flights at many major U.S. airport hubs were delayed last Friday because of a significant increase in air-traffic controller sick leave.
A ground stop at LaGuardia Airport was issued by the FAA on Friday morning, temporarily stopping flights due to a lack of staff. There were also significant delays at Newark and Philadelphia airports recorded.
Gregory Martin, a spokesperson for the FAA, stated that the issues occurred at two air-traffic controller facilities: Jacksonville, Fla and the location in Washington, D.C., that controls high-altitude air traffic across seven states.
The FAA announced via Twitter that they were in the process of mitigating the impact by adjusting staffing, rerouting air traffic, and increasing the space between aircrafts as needed.
The increase in sick leave appeared to be the result of America’s longest government shutdown in history. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers, including air-traffic controllers, have been affected financially, personally, and mentally because of the shutdown.
Friday morning marked the day where federal workers missed their second paycheck since the start of the shutdown.
According to Sarah Sanders, the White House spokesperson, President Donald Trump had been briefed on the air-traffic controller issues and airport delays.
Shortly before the delays were announced, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo warned the president in a direct letter to Trump. The letter claimed that continuing the government shutdown is impacting safety, security, and putting both domestic and international travelers at risk.
The most affected airport was LaGuardia in New York. Delays in incoming flights from major airlines due to land were reported. Three of America’s largest airlines – American Airlines, JetBlue Airways, and Southwest Airlines – all claimed that their businesses had seen minimal impact so far.
Garry Kelly, chief executive of Southwest Airlines, said that it’s was nearing a tipping point, with no one being able to predict the the impact to business may have been if the shutdown had continued.