US Senate reaches deal to end ATC furloughs

Washington DC
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The US Senate passed a bill late on 25 April that would end furloughs of air traffic controllers, following days of flight delays at various airports.

The bill would allow the US Federal Aviation Administration to transfer up to $253 million from other programmes to restore staff levels among the furloughed air traffic controllers.

The US House of Representatives is likely to vote on the bill on 26 April, say reports.

Besides helping to end the furloughs, the bill will also provide the FAA with "more than enough funding" to keep 149 federal contract air traffic control towers from closing, Republican senator Jerry Moran of Kansas said in a statement.

The FAA said earlier it would delay the end of funding for the towers until 15 June.

Thousands of flight delays were reported in recent days after the FAA implemented furloughs among its employees, including air traffic controllers, from 21 April. The furloughs and the end of funding for the control towers are part of a move to reduce the federal government's budget through 30 September, in a process known as sequestration.

"Tonight we worked together in the Senate to avoid total gridlock in our aviation system and avert the real harm that rampant delays would cause to our economy and jobs," says senator John Rockefeller IV. "By plugging a hole in the budget and providing the FAA with crucial funds to operate the air traffic control system, we will eliminate flight delays due to inadequate staffing and keep America moving. This does not fix all of the problems the FAA faces because of budget cuts, especially for contract towers in rural communities."