As a result of the upcoming “sequestration,” the automatic cuts to federal spending on Friday, travelers flying from Pittsburgh might have to put up with longer lines, and more delays.
Brad Penrod, President of the Allegheny County Airport Authority, said they’re in talks with the TSA, FAA, and Customs and Border Protection to prepare for the fallout from the cuts.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is facing a $600 million budget decrease and is considering furloughing “the vast majority” of the its 47,000 employees for one day per pay period until September.
Penrod said the FAA staff working in Western Pennsylvania consists of traffic controllers, office workers and inspectors.
The FAA will also be eliminating overnights shifts in 60 airports nationally, and closing 100 air traffic control towers at airports with fewer than 150,000 flight operations yearly.
The Department of Transportation has listed 72 airports where overnight shifts might be canceled. The facilities in Pennsylvania on the list include Allentown Tower, Allegheny Tower in West Mifflin, Wilkes-Barre Tower in Avoca, and Harrisburg International Tower.
Penrod said they’re training staff to be ready in case they lose their night shift traffic controllers.
“There are some procedures that we’ve used in several distant prior years to be able to operate in that environment,” said Penrod. “So understand that there’s over 4,000 public use airports in the U.S. that have no air traffic control services on-site on a day to day basis normally.”
238 airports are also under consideration to become one of the 100 to lose their control towers. Six of those are in Pennsylvania, the closest to Pittsburgh—Arnold Palmer Regional in Latrobe.
The TSA has proposed cuts to overtime if the sequester takes effect, causing major delays in screening during busy seasons.
Penrod said travelers should also prepare for the change.
“If you have to go through screening expect to arrive a little bit early to make sure that you get cleared,” said Penrod. “And then coming in, inbound international flights, there might be a little bit of a delay on the customs side.”