Major Delays and Closures at U.S. Airports Due to Government Shutdown, Flight Attendants Threaten Strike

As thousands of federal workers across the country went unpaid due to the government shutdown, the nation's air safety came into serious question today. According to CNN, Laguardia Airport in New York City was placed on a ground halt for several hours Friday as air traffic issues piled up due to staff shortages at regional air traffic control centers. While the airport has fully reopened at the time of writing, delays in excess of 90 minutes were still being reported. Elsewhere in the nation, significant delays were also reported at Dulles International Airport in Washington D.C., Newark International Airport, and Philadelphia International Airport, as well as several smaller regional airports. 

Workers in the airline industry have been sounding the alarm over safety issues since the political stalemate began, especially as the government shutdown crested into its sixth week. Per CNN, the vice president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association says, "You can't mess with a system that is so integral to the United States. This is reckless, what has been going on with the shutdown." These safety concerns have been echoed by others in the industry. Earlier this week, the international Association of Flight Attendants, along with the Airline Pilots Association and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, issued a statement warning of an "air safety environment that is deteriorating by the day." 

While private airlines' daily operations weren't affected by the shutdown, that may not be the case should government leadership not find a long-term solution to keeping the government open and funded. On January 20, the Association of Flight Attendants suggested a general strike as a possible way to force the government's hand. But for weeks now, the day-to-day operations that keep travelers safe on the ground and in the air -- all run by federally funded agencies -- have dealt with worker absences, overtime, and a lack of pay. That includes the TSA, where absent screeners have created record security check delays in recent weeks, as well as air traffic controllers. 

If you suspect your flight could be canceled, be sure to consult our guide on what exactly you need to do to spare yourself a bit of agony. Additionally, as this situation is ongoing and showing no end in sight, be sure to check ahead on the status of your flight and airport. 

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