Southwest says FAA communication in ATC furloughs lacking

Washington DC
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Southwest Airlines has called for better communication from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as flight delays continue following the furloughs of air traffic controllers that began on 21 April.

The airline's chief executive Gary Kelly says in an earnings call today that while the "vast majority" of its flights are still operating on time, the airline was not given enough notice on what would happen as a result of the furloughs.

"We were not advised as to what the FAA's plans were going to be until last week... At that point, we were not advised as to what they were going to do," says Kelly, adding that it only received communication on the situation five days before the furloughs were implemented on 21 April.

The FAA is furloughing its employees, including air traffic controllers, as part of a broader plan to cut the federal government's budget for the rest of the fiscal year ending 30 September.

Kelly says the airline's on-time performance has been impacted since Sunday, but does not say by how much. "We start the morning with strong on-time performance. Throughout the day, we've experienced... as the day evolves, we get surprises," says Kelly, adding that flights got held on the ground or were put on alternative routings.

The FAA says today there were more than 863 delays systemwide on 24 April, and more than 2,132 additional delays that day as a result of weather and other factors. Delays are expected at the three New York airports (Newark, LaGuardia, John F. Kennedy), as well as Chicago O'Hare, Fort Myers, and Tampa.

On 23 April, there were more than 1,025 delays attributed to the furloughs, says the FAA.