LaGuardia Airport suffers delays on day 35 of U.S. government shutdown

Update: Trump announced a 3 week deal to reopen U.S. government. Stay tuned for updates to find out whether the reprieve for cargo holds.

This morning, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ushered in the 35th day of the partial government shutdown by temporarily restricting flights this morning into and out of New York’s LaGuardia Airport (LGA), due to air traffic controller shortages, causing a cascade of passenger flight delays at other air hubs in the Eastern United States and raising concerns about possible disruption of cargo supply chains.

At 6:50 AM local time, the FAA halted flights coming into LGA, and at 7:44 AM lifted the halt. Despite the short duration of the hold, the event has impacted a massive number of flights to and from the airport.

The announcement today is significant because this is the first time during this government shutdown that there has been a shortage of air traffic controllers. In the weeks prior, the shutdown has had a more noticeable impact on the passenger side, due to Transportation Security Administration (TSA) “sickouts” at airports including Miami (MIA) and Houston’s George Bush (IAH). With this new development in short-staffing of FAA controllers who guide all flight operations, it is more likely that the situation will impact air cargo supply chains.

The FAA issued a statement in response to the situation, saying that it has “experienced a slight increase in sick leave” and that while it is working to augment staff and reroute traffic, the public “can monitor air traffic” on its site and “should check with airline carriers for more information.” LGA echoed the statement, tweeting that customers should confirm flights with their airline.

Carriers at U.S. airports are working to mitigate the impacts of the event but are struggling to provide clear, guiding information amidst the commotion.

Southwest Airlines did not provide any clarification to Air Cargo Airports as to whether its cargo customers are being affected by the situation at LGA, but said that, following LGA’s lift of a ground stop on flights, it is currently monitoring today’s air traffic control programs, and that it expects some flight delays. The airline did not specify how it is supporting cargo customers in the situation, beyond “simply encouraging customers to check their flight status” on its site.

Delta Airlines released a statement saying the airline is experiencing about 200 flight delays at LGA, as well as other airports in the Northeast region, due to the FAA’s ground delays. In its statement, Delta also “encourages” customers to check flight statuses on their site.

Delta Cargo and the Port of New York and New Jersey, which oversees LGA, have been contacted for comment, but have yet to respond.

So, it seems that cargo customers will have to navigate the murky waters alone in this situation today, which is not a comforting thought as the U.S. government shutdown increasingly exacerbates operational airport delays throughout the nation.