Commercial airline flights moved smoothly throughout most of the U.S. on Sunday, the first day air traffic controllers were subject to furloughs resulting from deep government spending cuts. But while the nightmarish flight delays and cancellations that the airline industry predicted would result from the furloughs did not materialize, the real test will come Monday, when traffic picks up.
Mark Duell at the flight tracking website FlightAware noted non-weather delays of 15 to 30 minutes at New York City area airports, but he couldn't say whether it was due to the furloughs or just typical New York traffic.
The trade group Airlines for America, which represents the airlines, said Sunday evening that it was "not seeing a significant impact at this point." A spokeswoman urged passengers to stay in contact with their airlines.
Government budget cuts that kicked in last month are forcing the Federal Aviation Administration and other agencies to cut their spending. FAA officials have said they have no choice but to furlough all 47,000 agency employees, including nearly 15,000 controllers. Each employee will lose one day of work every other week. The FAA has said planes will have to take off and land less frequently so as not to overload the remaining controllers on duty.
Friday, airline trade groups and the country's biggest pilots union sued the FAA to try to stop the furloughs. They predicted that the furloughs would delay or cancel flights for as many as one out of every three airline passengers across the country. Airlines have also directed their customers to tell the FAA to find other ways to cut costs.