LaGuardia Airport flights delayed on Friday morning due to air traffic control staffing shortages

By Kate Smith

/ CBS News

Flight delays from air traffic controller shortage

Fast Facts: Flight Delays on the East Coast

Flights in and out New York City's LaGuardia airport were delayed on Friday morning due to government shutdown-related
staffing shortages among air traffic controllers, according to a notice issued by the Federal Aviation Administration. On Friday, around 800,000 federal employees, including air traffic controllers, missed their second paycheck.

Due to staffing issues at two FAA facilities — Washington, D.C. and Jacksonville, Florida — a ground stop was issued for LaGuardia airport, according to the FAA. The means that certain flights bound for the New York City airport were held and air traffic controllers slowed departures leaving from the airport.

Air traffic controllers have been forced to work without pay since the government partially shutdown on December 22.

There was a "slight increase in sick leave at two facilities," an FAA spokesperson told CBS News via email on Friday morning. To make up for the staffing shortages, the FAA is "augmenting staffing, rerouting traffic and increasing spacing between aircraft when needed."

Financial hardship due to the government shutdown has prompted some federal airport workers to call out of work causing some passenger interruptions. On Friday morning, an American Airlines flight out of Monroe, Louisiana bound for Dallas with 26 passengers was cancelled due to a TSA officer shortage in Monroe, according to an airline's spokesperson.
"We were short a few officers this morning at MLU and in order to maintain our rigorous security, we chose to delay the checkpoint opening until backup officers arrived from TSA operations in Shreveport," the TSA said.

About 7.6 percent of the TSA workforce had an "unscheduled absence" yesterday, up from 3 percent a year ago, according to the federal agency. Earlier this week, the TSA requested 250 screening officers volunteers to make up for the call outs. Friday morning, TSA Administrator David Pekoske announced that certain TSA employees earning under $90,000 per year would be partially paid for their work between December 23 and January 5.

The FAA says that flying is still safe for passengers despite the staffing shortages. "The public can be assured that our nation's airport system is safe," the FAA tweeted on Friday morning.

The union for flight attendants expressed concern about the impact of the shutdown. "This is exactly what AFA and other aviation unions have been warning would happen," wrote Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, in a statement. "The aviation system depends on the safety professionals who make it run. They have been doing unbelievably heroic work even as they are betrayed by the government that employs them."

This is developing story

First published on January 25, 2019

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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