On a Friday, as many were likely heading out for weekend travel plans, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grounded all flights at LaGuardia Airport in New York City.
The reason? There aren’t enough air traffic controllers working to accommodate all the flights.
Bloomberg reported Friday morning that an air traffic control facility near Washington fell far short of necessary staff available to make sure flights in and out of LaGuardia were safe, giving the FAA no choice but to suspend flights in and out of one of the New York City area’s three major airports.
Other major East Coast airports also saw numerous flight delays due to the staffing shortage, like Reagan National Airport in Washington, DC, Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, and Philadelphia International in Pennsylvania. LaGuardia is, according to the FAA, one of the busiest airports in the country, with nearly 30 million annual passengers coming in and out of the airport.
To be fair, this is something government workers in the airline industry warned about due to the ongoing government shutdown, which is the longest in history at 35 days with no end in sight. In a statement issued earlier this week, the presidents of various unions representing everyone from TSA workers to air traffic controllers, flight attendants, and pilots said that the level of risk involved to air travel during the shutdown was “unprecedented.”
“In our risk-averse industry, we cannot even calculate the level of risk currently at play, nor predict the point at which the entire system will break,” they stated.
There are also delays at the Kona International Airport in Big Island, Hawaii, which is dependent on tourism as a source of revenue. As Grit Post reported Thursday, TSA workers are resigning from their jobs in large numbers, with some even having to live in their cars since they’ve been evicted from their homes.
If anything is to end the shutdown, the closure of a major airport like LaGuardia could be the final straw. Two “senior Republican lawmakers” recently told a Washington Post reporter in an off-the-record conversation that the only way the shutdown would end is if TSA workers walked off the job and grounded flights.
Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.