QUEENS, NY — Flights into LaGuardia Airport were briefly halted Friday amid a shortage of air traffic control staff.
The Federal Aviation Administration put a ground stop on arriving traffic, meaning flights bound for LaGuardia were blocked from taking off, according to the FAA website.
UPDATE: The halt was canceled as of 10:37 a.m., according to an FAA alert. Flights bound for LaGuardia are now subject to a “ground delay program” while some arriving flights were delayed an average of an hour and 26 minutes, the FAA’s website says.
In a Twitter post, the airport warned of “major delays” because of staffing shortages at air traffic control centers along the East Coast. Delta Air Lines alone was experiencing about 200 flight delays at LaGuardia and other airports in the Northeast, the company said.
Bloomberg first reported the halt Friday morning. It came amid flight delays at several other airports in the Northeast including Newark-Liberty International Airport, CNBC reported.
The move came on the 35th day of the partial federal government shutdown, which has forced thousands of government workers to stay home or work without pay. The president announced Friday afternoon an agreement to reopen the government.
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An FAA spokesperson said the agency has seen a “slight increase in sick leave at two facilities” but has tried to address the impact by “augmenting staffing, rerouting traffic, and increasing spacing between aircraft when needed.”
“The results have been minimal impacts to efficiency while maintaining consistent levels of safety in the national airspace system,” the spokesperson said.
The White House is monitoring the ongoing delays and President Donald Trump has been briefed on the matter, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. The White House is also in regular contact with the FAA and the U.S. Department of Transportation, she added.
The disruptions left some travelers sitting on runways while their planes waited to take off, according to Twitter posts. The New York-based comedian Orli Matlow wrote that her parents were stuck on a plane in Toronto that could not fly into LaGuardia.
“If we miss our tickets to ‘Merrily We Roll Along’ because of Trump, I will never forgive him!!!!!” she tweeted.
The travel disruptions added to the pressure on Trump to put an end to the longest shutdown in U.S. history, which started because of an impasse over funding for the president’s proposed southern border wall.
Trump “must give up his racist wall and Republicans in Congress must vote NOW to end this shutdown,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Twitter. “The human cost is only going to increase and more and more Americans are going to suffer.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned Trump in a Friday letter that the shutdown was placing a growing burden on air hubs such as LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy Airport.
It has only exacerbated pressure on air traffic control staffing, which was already at record lows, and forced employees who do show up to work more days and longer hours, the letter says.
The increased stress the shutdown has created for air traffic controllers, Transportation Security Administration agents and other aviation workers is creating a potentially dangerous situation for travelers, said J. David Cox Sr., the national president of the American Federation of Government Employees.
“Mountains of neurological research has shown definitively that acute stress … is associated with depression, lethargy, lack of focus, anxiety and worry,” Cox said in a statement Friday. “Terrorists know this as well, and we cannot afford to wait a moment longer for them to attempt to exploit it.”
Patch editors Kathleen Culltion and Feroze Dhanoa contributed to this report.
(Lead image: LaGuardia Airport is seen in November 2018. Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)