Get familiar with the word “sequester”, especially if you are flying to, and in, the US, starting this month. It will be the reason why your flights will be running late.
Sequester is Washington jargon for automatic spending cuts signed into law by US President Barack Obama Friday on failing to get a deal with Republicans on how best to cut deficit.
“This is not going to be an apocalypse, I think, as some people have said,” the president said after a meeting with congressional leaders. “It’s just dumb. And it’s going to hurt.”
The cuts will impact federal agencies and spending across the board, which will together bring down budgetary allocation by $85 billion over the next seven months.
Departments of defence, education, state and homeland security will all be affected, according to officials rolled out by the White House over past few days.
Including the Federal Aviation Administration, which will cut staff manning air traffic control towers as a result. Transport secretary Ray Lahood has warned of flight delays.
People flying to or from major airports such as New York, San Francisco and Chicago during peak time can expect delays of up 90 minutes, which will have a ripple effect across the country.
To a specific question from some one flying to India in the next few weeks, Lahood had said: “You will be delayed.” These disruptions are expected to kick in around March-end.
The federal aviation agency will furlough employees for a day each salary cycle, which means there will be fewer people to operate air traffic towers, thus the delays.
Towers at some smaller airfields — that handle less than 150,000 trips a year — are being shut down completely for the duration of the cuts, all of the next financial year.
Travellers from India should check the FAA website for affected airfields while planning their trip. Delays will begin to be felt from later this month.
Trains run by Amtrak, however, are not expected to be impacted.