Giving the back of the hand to those who have questioned whether the sequester will negatively impact air travel in the United States, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood again said on Friday that the traveling public will feel budget cutbacks in coming months.
The comments came amid news reports that questioned whether the Obama Administration had overstated the impact of the $85 billion in cuts to the federal government as a whole, and the Federal Aviation Administration in this case.
"Mr. Secretary, how much can we truly expect the impact of the sequester to have on domestic air travel?" asked a questioner at the 2013 conference of the Export-Import Bank in Washington, D.C.
"Sequester is going to have a huge impact," LaHood said, saying the FAA is being asked to cut money that certainly will impact air travelers later this year.
"We've had to find $600 million at the FAA, and that's a lot of money," said LaHood, who said it was a "very tough thing to do" to furlough air traffic controllers and others at the FAA.
"It's not any way to run an aviation system, I can tell you that," said LaHood.
Furloughs are expected to begin at the FAA later this month, during the week of April 21.
Back in late February, LaHood told reporters there would be massive problems from the sequester, forecasting large numbers of canceled flights and travel delays.
"Flights to major cities like New York, Chicago and San Francisco and others could experience delays of up to 90 minutes," LaHood said at the White House.
But those delays have not materialized, and airlines have not moved to cancel flights later this year amid worries about gridlock.
Along with LaHood's continued warnings, union representatives for air traffic controllers are also still forecasting major troubles for air travelers this year.
"These cuts will be significant, and their effects will likely have long-lasting consequences," said the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, which predicts "increased delays" for "all users and operators" of the U.S. air system.
Several hours after LaHood spoke, the FAA announced it was delaying the closure of 149 air traffic control towers at smaller airports. A statement said the FAA needed time to deal both with legal challenges and to help local communities which want to assume the financial responsibility of keeping those towers open.
"The sequester is bad policy," White House spokesman Jay Carney called it at the White House this week.
But will bad policy really translate into major delays for air travelers?
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