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January 25, 2019

PHL, Newark experience flight delays due to air traffic control personnel shortage

Government PHL
Carroll - The Philadelphia International Airport Air traffic control tower Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

The Philadelphia International Airport.

Philadelphia International Airport and Newark Liberty Airport saw significant delays Friday morning as the ongoing federal government shutdown impacts air traffic control staff availability.

Though flights flying into Philadelphia saw an average of 60-75 minute delays this morning, the airport announced on Twitter around 11 a.m. that schedules were mostly back to normal. Delays persist, however, at EWR and at New York's LaGuardia Airport, the latter issued a full ground stop which could have a nationwide ripple effect, CNN reported.

RELATED: Independence Visitor Center reducing hours to offset expenses during government shutdown

The Federal Aviation Administration said that a lack of staffing at the three airports led to the ongoing air traffic delays.

"We have experienced a slight increase in sick leave at two air traffic control facilities affecting New York and Florida," the FAA said in a statement.

"We’ve mitigated the impact by augmenting staffing, rerouting traffic, and increasing spacing between aircraft as needed. The results have been minimal impacts to efficiency while maintaining consistent levels of safety in the national airspace system."

Trish Gilbert, executive vice president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, said the delays are a direct result of the government shutdown, which reached day 35 today.

"We predicted that you cannot continue to operate a system this complex for this long without the support structure of the people that are furloughed," Gilbert said to CNN. She said that being already short-staffed has led to stress and a lack of sleep, leaving many workers unfit to properly control airways.

According to NBC, the delays span throughout the East Coast (the time difference has kept the West Coast from suffering delays for travel to the East Coast), specifically with staffing shortages near Washington, D.C., and Jacksonville, Florida.

“We have a growing concern for the safety and security of our members, our airlines, and the traveling public due to the government shutdown," the presidents of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, the Air Line Pilots Association, International, and the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA said in a statement to NBC.

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