Nightly News   |  April 23, 2013

More delays as airlines feel impact of sequester

The combination of volatile spring weather and federal budget cuts are creating thousands of delays.  Ten percent of the nation’s air traffic controllers are off the job each day due to the budget stalemate. NBC’s Tom Costello reports.

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>>> a package of budget cuts that was given the clunky name, the sequester. it's as good an example as any of our broken government. the whole idea of an approaching package of forced budget cutbacks was to pressure action well in advance. that didn't happen, so now the cutbacks are being assigned and enforced not across the board but selectively. they affect air traffic control and they have slowed down air travel , which you already know if you know anyone who nice. tom costello has that story for us tonight. good evening.

>> reporter: hi, brian. in fact, the airlines, the pilots are telling the customers the delays are not their fault. republicans on capitol hill blaming the white house for needlessly creating the situation. now the white house is saying that congress has got to deal with the sequester. day three of the sequester's impact on the nation's air traffic and delays are becoming the norm on many routes. hundreds of takeoffs and land also delayed, nearly every city affected. 30 to 45 minute delays in dallas and los angeles . ground stops at washington national and dulles. and a ripple effect across the country. kim zoelar was more than 90 minutes late.

>> we were supposed to leave at 8:25, just as we're about to leave, they said, sorry, we're not leaving. we've been sequestered.

>> reporter: jonathan rogers sat on the ramp for two hours.

>> new york city is right there. you want to reach out and grab it.

>> reporter: in all 1200 delays blamed on the shortage of controllers, another 1400 delayed by weather and other issues. a job that literally keeps the nation's economy and its people moving caught in a budget stalemate. of the roughly 15,000 air traffic controllers , 10% are off the job each day. 1500 not at their stations.

>> i don't think that it's fair that air traffic control , particularly air traffic controllers , are being used as a pawn.

>> reporter: there's no shortage of people who are angry about it, but so far congress hasn't acted to fix the problem. the man whose job it is to keep the skies safe says it's an outrage.

>> sequester is a bad idea, a dumb idea, no way that any person would do their own budget. it's a meat ax approach and it should be changed. it can be changed.

>> reporter: in denver, proof that the delays can worsen with volatile springtime weather. while the faa says fewer controllers says it must increase spacing between planes to maintain safety, critics say the faa could find other ways to save money, but on the ground, the delays are growing.

>> i can't imagine being stuck here for three hours and not knowing what's going to be next.

>> reporter: yeah, there is talk in congress about actually passing legislation to force the controllers back to work. meanwhile, there is universal praise for the tsa's decision to delay allowing knives back on to planes. you may recall the tsa chief received virtual unanimous protest about that decision. now they'll delay that decision, re-evaluate and listen to the airlines and their employees.

>> so no knives, but delays. a mixed bag from the airport tonight. tom costello reporting on all of it. tom, thanks.