How will the federal budget cuts affect Detroit Metro Airport?

Mar 4, 2013

As the Obama Administration began making its case against 'the sequester' - the mandatory, across-the-board budget cuts that were never supposed to happen - delays at airports was one of the big issues they highlighted.

Here's Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood at a press conference on Feb. 22, where he said more than $600 million will have to come out of the Federal Aviation Administration budget.

So what will this mean at Detroit Metro?

LaHood said the majority of FAA employees will be furloughed for one to two days per pay period.

Michael Martinez writes for the Detroit News that airport officials don't expect cuts this month, but they do expect them next month:

Airport spokesman Scott Wintner said Detroit Metro is in a "wait-and-see mode" to see how the sequestration will affect operations at Michigan's largest airport. Any personnel cuts wouldn't likely happen until next month.

"There will certainly be impacts," he said. "But more immediately, we've been told not to expect any impact between now and April."

Wintner expects staff cuts to air traffic controllers, TSA officials, and Customs and Border Patrol agents.

The TSA issued a statement saying wait times will likely increase as they will have to implement a hiring freeze and cut down on overtime:

With TSA staffing levels decreasing over time, we expect that during busy travel periods wait times exceeding 30-40 minutes could double at nearly all of the largest airports. In addition, passengers who schedule their travel outside of peak flight schedules and plan to arrive close to their scheduled flight time may see their wait times now reach 30 minutes or more.

Some Republicans in Congress have argued that cutbacks on air traffic controllers should come only after cutting wasteful spending by the FAA.

But as Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post points out, it will be hard not to trim staffing levels when 71 percent of the FAA's budget goes to personnel costs.