Spending Cuts Create Long Lines at U.S. Airports

Flying soon? Get to the airport a little earlier than usual.

According to reports, the sequestration cuts that went into effect on Friday are already having an impact on U.S. travelers. And things could get a lot worse.

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Today, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said that the broad federal spending cuts are causing long lines at select checkpoints in the U.S. According to Reuters, Napolitano issued the following statement at a Polotico event: "We are already seeing the effects at some of the ports of entry—at the big airports, for example. Some of them had very long lines this weekend." The situation will intensify after the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) sends out furlough notices to its offices, which, said Napolitano, would happen today.

Napolitano joins outgoing Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood as well as a host of political leaders in warning that the aftereffects of the federal government's across-the-board budget cuts could ravage the travel industry. As we reported in February, LaHood cautioned that the cuts would lead to "delays of up to 90 minutes at peak airports during sequester." At a White House Press briefing, LaHood said, "It's going to be very painful for the flying public."

A statement on the TSA's website advises travelers to expect "to see lines and wait times increase as reductions to overtime and the inability to backfill positions for attrition begin to occur this month." The biggest headaches for flyers aren't expected to happen until large numbers of TSA employees and airport workers are furloughed 30 days after furlough notices are issued. Airport staffing levels will also be impaired by a TSA hiring freeze, according to the statement.

There's still time for a deal to be reached among lawmakers. But unless something is done to change the course of the cuts, growing staff shortages will plague the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the TSA in coming months, and major flight and security delays will become standard.

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