NYC Airport Sees Delays as Air Traffic Controllers Call in Sick

The government shutdown has left air traffic controllers without pay, and airports are seeing the effects.

Thousands of air traffic controllers went without another paycheck Friday, sending major delays rippling across the Northeast.

New York’s LaGuardia Airport had major delays, with the Federal Aviation Administration halting flights due to an air traffic control staff shortage Friday morning. The ground stop has since been lifted. 

The FAA rerouted planes and slowed air traffic to cope with an increase in the number of controllers calling in sick. 

“The aviation system depends on the safety professionals who make it run. They have been doing unbelievably heroic work even as they are betrayed by the government that employs them. They are fatigued, worried, and distracted - but they won't risk our safety. So the planes will stay on the ground,” Sara Nelson, president of the Flight Attendants' Union, said in a statement Friday. “This is anything but a sick out - it is only about our safety and the air traffic controllers' absolute commitment to it.” 

The partial government shutdown also affected airports in Washington, D.C., and Jacksonville, Florida, who had flights delayed due to lack of personnel. 

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association's (NATCA) President Paul Rinaldi issued a statement Friday saying they do not condone the absences they are currently facing due to the partial government shutdown. 

"NATCA does not condone or endorse any federal employees participating in or endorsing a coordinated activity that negatively affects the capacity of the National Airspace System or other activities that undermine the professional image and reputation of the men and women we represent," Rinaldi said. "Controllers take their responsibility to protect the safety of the flying public at all costs very seriously. Nothing else matters except safety. We have warned about what could happen as a result of the prolonged shutdown. Many controllers have reached the breaking point of exhaustion, stress, and worry caused by this shutdown."

The partial government shutdown has now entered day 35 and is the longest in U.S. history. As many as 800,000 federal workers are missing a second paycheck Friday due to the shutdown. 

The president has been briefed and we are monitoring the ongoing delays at some airports. We are in regular contact with officials at the Department of Transportation and the FAA,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters Friday.

On Friday afternoon, the president announced that government will temporarily reopen.