FAA Orders Ground Stop at LaGuardia Due to 'Staffing Shortages'

Air Traffic Controllers Warn of 'Unprecedented' Safety Risk As Government Shutdown Continues

Delays at US airports, including New York's LaGuardia and New Jersey's Newark International, appeared to put pressure on President Donald Trump and congressional leaders, who on Friday announced they had reached a temporary deal to reopen the government after 35 days of deadlock in negotiations.

As of late morning, travelers at the Portland International Jetport seemed to be taking the news in stride, as one flight to LaGuardia posted an hour's delay and two flights to O'Hare in Chicago were expected to be delayed by 20 minutes.

LaGuardia Airport in NY and Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey were both experiencing at least 90-minute delays in takeoffs Friday.

FAA spokesman Gregory Martin told the Associated Press that it had augmented staffing, rerouted traffic and increased spacing between planes as needed.

The result was "minimal impacts to efficiency" while maintaining safety, Martin said. "We remain grateful to the air traffic controllers, technicians and inspectors for their continued professionalism and dedication to their safety mission".

The disruption came a day after airline officials warned that the shutdown might affect air traffic.

This is breaking story, check back for updates.

The delays immediately became a new flashpoint in the political standoff between the Democrat-controlled U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. President Donald Trump over the shutdown, caused by a dispute about funding for Trump's plan to increase barriers on the U.S. -Mexico border. He said he saw several passengers scramble to make their flights after being delayed at US customs, where employees are also working without pay. Among them are more than 400,000 workers, including air traffic controllers, airport security workers and Federal Bureau of Investigation agents, have been told they must continue to report into work because they are deemed essential.

The worker shortage is likely caused by workers calling off due to not receiving federal paychecks, which is part of the ongoing government shutdown.

"We are closely monitoring the situation on the East Coast today", Chicago Aviation Department spokeswoman Lauren Huffman said in an emailed statement. TSA would not to reveal callout rates for individual airports.

An electronic paystub dated January 5, 2019, for an air-traffic controller at Reagan National Airport shows a net payment of $0.00. "It is only going to get much, much worse".

The LaGuardia delay, which was scheduled to last until 10:45am ET, according to the FAA website, resulted in flights being grounded for an average of 41 minutes.

Friday's announcement by the FAA is significant because it is the first time there has been a shortage of air traffic controllers.

"There are locations where FAA engineers have quit, TSA agents have quit, air traffic controllers have quit".

"If this continues, we're going to see a catastrophic failure in the system", Dan Carrico, president of NATCA at O'Hare International Airport, said.

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