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US Budget Breakthrough Ends Air Travel Delays

  • Chris Simkins

U.S. lawmakers on Friday stopped the air controller furloughs that have caused thousands of flight delays at airports across the country. The move will allow transportation officials to shift millions of dollars from other accounts to ease forced budget cuts that caused air traffic controller staff reductions at airports nationwide.

Most flights were on schedule, as US air travel got back to normal.

This came after a week of growing passenger frustration and airline delays caused by not having enough air traffic controllers on duty. Lawmakers in Washington moved swiftly to solve the problem - and reduce the effect of mandatory spending cuts which had forced 15-hundred air traffic controllers a day to take unpaid leave. Travelers are relieved.

"It doesn't take a genius to figure out that a few bucks for some air traffic controllers would make us all a lot happier," said one airline passenger.

In Atlanta, where delays were not as bad as elsewhere, Airport Manager Louis Miller is still relieved.

"It think it's the ability that the traffic manager here recognized that you do have the busiest airport in the world and, when things get backed up here significantly, every city not only in the US, but internationally, can get affected," he said.

Transportation officials say the shift in funding also will keep 149 air-control towers at smaller airports open. Despite the move restoring full strength to the nation's air traffic control system, both political parties in Congress continue to blame each other for the forced spending cuts.

"These are simply irresponsible cuts that have have real and detrimental impacts on the traveling public," said Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine.

Lawmakers remain deeply divided over ways to end the automatic cuts known as "the sequester" that continue to ripple through nearly every federal government agency.

"The President is against sequester, the Senate budget is against sequester, and you [Republicans] would not allow us [Democrats] to offer an amendment four times, which would have precluded sequester," said Democratic Congressman Steny Hoyer of Maryland.

While the budget battle continues, travelers are just happy there's now enough money to keep the nation's air traffic control system operating smoothly.