This article has been updated as of 2:45 p.m. EST to include updates from Air Canada and WestJet.
Flights out of New York's LaGuardia Airport have come to a temporary standstill, after the Federal Aviation Administration of the United States (FAA) cited staffing issues as a major disruptor.
In a statement on the company's website, the FAA wrote:
"We have experienced a slight increase in sick leave at two facilities. We are mitigating the impact by augmenting staffing, rerouting traffic, and increasing spacing between aircraft when needed."
Aviation operations under pressure
The announcement from the FAA comes on the heels of an announcement earlier this week, when the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) declared that it had seen a national rate of 7.5 per cent of unscheduled absences compared to a 3.3 per cent rate one year ago on the same weekday (Jan. 22).
Due to a lack of funding, neither the TSA nor the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) are responding to phone calls. Both agencies have stated on their company websites that until funding by the U.S. government is restored, the information on their websites will be updated on a very limited basis, if at all.
UPDATE: Air Canada & WestJet
Both Air Canada & WestJet operate flights out of LaGuardia. At the time of writing, Air Canada has posted a travel alert to its Twitter page:
Travel Alert – January 25: New York (LGA, EWR). Details, Flight Status & rebook online. Change fees waived: https://t.co/fuCj1d9VMn— Air Canada (@AirCanada) January 25, 2019
In a statement to PAX, Air Canada wrote:
"We currently anticipate operating our regularly scheduled flights to LGA and EWR. As we normally do, we remind customers to check their flight’s status on ac.com before going to the airport. Two flights from Toronto and one from Montreal to LGA were cancelled today due to ATC issues, with affected passengers able to travel on later flights. We operate 13 return flights from Toronto and eight from Montreal to LaGuardia on weekdays."
WestJet spokesperson Lauren Stewart has confirmed with PAX that the airline has experienced delays and cancellations "over the last four hours and expect[s] further delays and possible cancellations if more constraints are placed on the air traffic system."
"We are responding to the situation as required to keep our guests moving and recommend that guests check their flights prior to heading to the airport for transborder travel," Stewart wrote PAX in an emailed statement.
WestJet has posted an updated travel advisory on its website, which can be found here.
"We are appreciative of the hard work and dedication of the men and women of the air traffic control system who assist in the safe movement of our aircraft each day," Stewart wrote. "This is a most unfortunate situation that our ATC partners find themselves in and it’s our hope that the parties involved can resolve the situation as quickly as possible."
Travellers greatly affected
Kasia Dundas, a PR specialist for the Intrepid Travel Group, North America, is currently in New York, and was scheduled to fly home tomorrow on an Air Canada flight, which has now been cancelled.
"The flight cancellations have impacted thousands of travellers, who are all rushing to rebook their flights and get to their next destination from LaGuardia," Dundas told PAX by phone this morning. "Air Canada has been extremely helpful and gracious with refunds and rescheduling flights during an unfortunate and uncomfortable situation."
LaGuardia has also taken to Twitter to share the following update:
Due to staffing shortages at FAA air traffic control centers along the East Coast, there are major delays at LGA. Confirm your flight with your airline. — LaGuardia Airport (@LGAairport) January 25, 2019
Those who were scheduled to depart from LaGuardia are advised to visit https://www.laguardiaairport.com/ or to monitor social media for more updates.
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