Union Claims Air Traffic Controller Shortage Could Lead To Widespread Flight Delays

Bad weather, aircraft maintenance, computer glitches, crew not showing up on time: these are just a few reasons why a flight might be delayed. But you may soon have to add “not enough air traffic controllers” to that list, as the union representing controllers says a lack of manpower will result in more late and canceled flights.

The Washington Post reports that officials for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association said during a news conference on Tuesday that a “chronic” shortage of controllers has reached a point where widespread delays are likely.

The union warned that if something isn’t done to alleviate the shortage soon, the industry could see delays on the same level as 2013 when government spending cuts led to furloughs for controllers.

The Post reports that during the seven days the furlough was in place, 12,760 flights were delayed.

The union said Tuesday that the issue stems from the Federal Aviation Administration’s failure for the past five years to meet hiring goals, despite the fact that air traffic has increased.

According to the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, the number of “certified professional controllers” – employees who can direct air traffic without assistance – declined 10% from 2012 to August of this year.

Trish Gilbert, vice president of the union, says the decline in controllers means that, in some cases, employees at the nation’s busiest airports have had to work six-day work weeks.

Complicating the issue is the fact that of the 10,859 certified controllers currently working, about 30% are eligible to retire, she says.

Union: Chronic shortage of air traffic controllers a crisis [The Washington Post]

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