The Federal Aviation Administration temporarily restricted some flights into LaGuardia Airport due to staff shortages Friday morning amid the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.
The aviation agency briefly put a ground stop on arriving traffic into one of the nation’s busiest airports, causing delays on average of 41 minutes for arriving flights from Newark International and Philadelphia International airports, according to the FAA.
“We have experienced a slight increase in sick leave at two air traffic control facilities affecting New York and Florida,” an FAA spokesperson said in a statement. “As with severe storms, we will adjust operations to a safe rate to match available controller resources. We’ve mitigated the impact by augmenting staffing, rerouting traffic, and increasing spacing between aircraft as needed.”
The FAA’s Airport Status Information website cited staff shortages at two facilities that manage air traffic. Travelers are advised to check with their airline for more information. Flights heading into LaGuardia are still suffering from delays with an average of an hour and 26 minutes, according to the FAA.
Flights at other East Coast airports including Newark Liberty International, Philadelphia International, and Washington’s Reagan National also experienced delays.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo slammed President Donald Trump for the commuter chaos and called for the historic government shutdown—in which Trump and congressional Democrats remain in a stalemate over border security—to come to an end.
“It’s not just Washington in the beltway, now literally, they’re slowing down air traffic in the United States of America,” Cuomo said in a statement. “He talks about security, meanwhile the TSA agents at the airports are furloughed and aren’t getting paid. So, it’s another day of federal madness.”
The air traffic disruption underscores the growing impact of the government shutdown as it reaches its 35th day. Unions that represent air traffic controllers, flight attendants, and pilots are growing increasingly concerned about the shutdown’s impact on its members and travelers with the government closure heading toward its sixth week.
In a joint statement, the presidents of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, Air Line Pilots Association, and Association of Flight Attendants warned that the airline industry “cannot even calculate the level of risk currently at play, nor predict the point at which the entire system will break. It is unprecedented.”
A spokesperson for the Port Authority, which runs LaGuardia Airport, was not immediately available for comment. LaGuardia’s press office is shuttered due to the government shutdown.