WASHINGTON, April 19 The top U.S. airline
industry group on Friday took legal action to prevent the
Federal Aviation Administration from furloughing air traffic
controllers, a move that could cause delays of over three hours
at major airports.
The FAA plan for meeting congressionally mandated budget
cuts "is illegal, irresponsible and damaging. Most of all, it's
totally unnecessary," Nicholas Calio, president of Airlines for
America (A4A), told reporters.
The industry group filed a motion in U.S. Appellate Court
seeking a stay to halt the FAA's plan to furlough 47,000
workers, including many FAA controllers, for up to 11 days over
the rest of the fiscal year.
It was joined by the Air Line Pilots Association and the
Regional Airline Association, who also warned the furloughs
starting on Sunday could cause massive problems for air
travelers and shippers in coming months.
The court is not expected to act on the case until next week
and it could be some time after that before a decision is made.
The FAA said on Thursday that flight delays of up to 3 1/2
hours are expected at some busy U.S. airports this summer
because of the decision to furlough 10 percent of its staff to
meet the automatic budget cuts.
The average delay would be much shorter than 3-1/2 hours and
range widely depending on the airport, FAA Administrator Michael
The industry groups said they also supported legislation to
classify air traffic controllers as "essential" government
workers who are exempted from furloughs.
Huerta and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood have said
they were forced to furlough the controllers because of the way
Congress constructed the automatic budget cuts.
But Lee Moak, president of airline pilots group, accused the
Obama administration of using the issue as "political football"
in its battle with congressional Republicans over the budget.
Representative Bill Shuster, the Republican chairman of the
House Transportation Committee, also accused the administration
of playing politics with the issue.
"We know that the FAA has the flexibility to reduce costs
elsewhere, such as contracts, travel, supplies, and consultants,
or to apply furloughs in a manner that better protects the most
critical air traffic control facilities," Shuster said.
"Yet rather than take this approach, the Administration has
made choices that appear designed to have the greatest possible
impact on the traveling public," he said.