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Flight Delays Pile Up At NYC-Area Airports After FAA Budget Cuts

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Airline passengers are facing travel troubles. The Federal Aviation Administration has furloughed 47,000 workers because of federal budget cuts.

That's creating massive delays at New York City-area airports, CBS 2's Steve Langford reported on Monday.

"I think the effects will probably be felt most in New York. This is the most congested, most complex piece of airspace in the world," John F. Kennedy International Airport air traffic controller Stephen Abraham said.

It's a situation where airplanes that were already closer together than anywhere else around the planet are now being monitored by fewer professionals, said Abraham, who's being told to stay home without pay one day every other week, just like 15,000 other air traffic controllers. He said New York-area airports will suffer significant delays.

"If you remove the layers and individuals responsible for certain pieces of airspace things, naturally, have to slow down," Abraham said.

At LaGuardia Airport on Monday incoming passengers were reporting unusual delays.

"We actually sat on the plane a lot, probably 40 minutes before take-off," said Chicago passenger Eileen Dominguez.

"We backed away from the gate. We were told we're going to be an hour, 20 minutes sitting on the runway," added Nancy Bryant, a passenger from Dallas.

"I can't imagine it getting any more delayed at LaGuardia," said traveler Bob Bennett from Rye. "It's an incredibly difficult airport because of the congestion."

The FAA declined to reveal how many air traffic controllers will be missing on any given day, but controller Abraham, who is president of the air traffic controllers union at JFK, outlined how air traffic control staffing at Kennedy airport will be hit due to the cutbacks:

Normally the JFK tower would have six air traffic controllers on the day shift, 10 controllers in the evening and two overnight.

Now, because of the federal budget cuts, the JFK control tower will have five controllers on duty during the day, eight controllers in the evening, and two overnight.

"It's difficult to manage summer traffic in New York when you're fully staffed. When you lose 10 or 15 percent of your colleagues it will be even more of a challenge," Abraham said.

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