Air travelers rejoice. The Federal Aviation Administration announced Saturday that all employee furloughs had been suspended and U.S. air travel should be back to normal by Sunday evening. The move came after Congress passed a bill Friday that allowed the agency to shift money within its budget to prevent the furloughs that had been implemented as a result of the sequester. “Air traffic facilities will begin to return to regular staffing levels over the next 24 hours and the system will resume normal operations by Sunday evening,” the FAA said in a statement.
The FAA had reduced staff at airport towers by about 10 percent, saying air traffic controllers could not be exempt from its cuts because all federal agencies were required to reduce spending across their budgets as part of the sequester, points out the Hill. The airlines launched an aggressive PR campaign to blame delays on the sequester and apparently more than 19,000 people sent letters to Congress demanding a change.
President Obama harshly criticized Republican lawmakers Saturday for seemingly caring more about how spending cuts have affected fliers than children and the elderly. “This week, the sequester hurt travelers, who were stuck for hours in airports and on planes, and rightly frustrated by it. And, maybe because they fly home each weekend, the members of Congress who insisted these cuts take hold finally realized that they actually apply to them too,” Obama said in his weekly address. “So Congress passed a temporary fix. A Band-Aid. But these cuts are scheduled to keep falling across other parts of the government that provide vital services for the American people. And we can’t just keep putting Band-Aids on every cut.”