Business travellers flying to the US could face increased delays due to government budget cuts in the next few weeks.
The move to cut the funding for air traffic controllers by 10 per cent (known in the US as sequestration)is already causing flight delays in the US, according to ACTE president Suzanne Neufang.
Neufang said up to 6,700 flights per day could face delays due to the reduction in working days for air traffic controllers which came into force on Sunday (April 21).
“There will be fewer people on staff watching planes,” Neufang told BBT at the ACTE global conference in New York. “The biggest impact will be on the largest airports such as those in the New York corridor, Atlanta and Chicago.
“There are estimates that it will effect 6,700 flights per day across the US – to put that in perspective, a bad weather day normally causes around 3,000 delays.
“Airlines have not reacted by cancelling flights because they don’t want a massive reduction in their own inventory. They have also started legal proceedings to stop this, but that will take several days to go through the legal process.”
Neufang said that the wider cuts in US government spending through sequestration would be felt by the business travel industry.
“The government is one of the top five business travel spenders in the US and we have already seen government spending on air travel fall by as much as 30 per cent in March – so the impact is already being felt.
“This will affect the whole industry – from airlines and hotels to caterers and car providers who will all have shortfalls which are going to difficult to predict.
“As a result of this, we could see a combination of higher prices with a reduction in service, investment and innovation.”
Neufang added that there were fears that this reduction in government spending on business travel would become “the new normal”.
“There have been predictions that spending on business travel by the government could go down by 30-50 per cent in the long-term,” she said. “We have to hope this will not become the new normal.”