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Budget cuts could mean long airport delays

8:06 PM, Mar 5, 2013   |    comments
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Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta. (file)

ATLANTA -- Across-the-board Federal spending cuts, known as sequestration, are set to impact airports around the country, including here in Georgia.

The Federal Government has announced it will close 173 air traffic control towers at small and medium-sized airports on April 7.

The closing list includes three metro airports, Brown Field in Fulton, Briscoe Field in Gwinnett and McCullum Field in Cobb.

But that's not all.

TSA workers are expected to be furloughed, and that could mean long lines at security checkpoints at all the major airports.

And that could mean lots of extra time on the Hartsfield-Jackson taxiways for thousands of metro Atlanta families on the way out of town to enjoy Spring Breaks.

"Its going to make it a lot more difficult for everybody, but especially for people in wheelchairs and people with infants," said Christine Womak, traveling with an infant.

Hartsfield-Jackson plans to deploy an army of customer service agents to handle passenger questions and concerns, but Airport General Manager Louis Miller is concerned about crowds of holiday bound families jamming the terminals.

"We are so worried and that's why we are hoping the President and Congress can get their act together and pass a bill that keeps the funding for this critical part of our industry going.  If the lines get to long, it scares me to death," Miller said.

Air Traffic Controllers say furlough notices went out today, triggering a 30-days notice for cutbacks to start.

How will that impact Hartsfield passengers?

"That means 25-30 fewer flights every hour at Hartsfield and we will use 2 runways instead of 3," said Victor Santore, Southern Region Vice President of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.

Santore says that means a minimum of 90-minute delays on the tarmac and leaving the gates.

For the next 30 days it's a wait and see, but after that anticipate getting to the airport hours in advance.

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