Airports at full operation after FAA furloughs end

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ORLANDO, Fla. - Airports across central Florida are at full operation Sunday after the Federal Aviation Administration ended furloughs for air traffic controllers.

Less than a week after the F.A.A. furloughs were put into effect, lawmakers passed a bill allowing the agency to withdraw the furloughs of air traffic controllers and others.

Initially, the agency had no choice but to cut $637 million of its share of $85 billion in automatic, government-wide spending cuts that must be achieved by the end of the federal budget year on Sept. 30. The FAA had reduced the work schedules of nearly all of its 47,000 employees by one day every two weeks. That amounted to a 10 percent cut in hours and pay.

Officials said the cuts meant less air traffic controllers, decreasing the number of planes airports could handle. The furloughs caused major delays at airports across the country, including Orlando International Airport.

As of noon Sunday, there were no major flight delays at OIA, and only a handful of flights with minor delays.

Orlando International Airport went the extra step to warn passengers on its Facebook page that they should check their flight status, before getting to the airport because delays and cancellations should be expected.

"I noticed it last, like three weeks ago there were delays but today so far [so good]. Let's see," said traveler Eve Rumore.

The furloughs affected 15,000 air traffic controllers, as well as thousands of air traffic supervisors, managers and technicians who keep airport towers and radar facility equipment working.

The FAA said Saturday that it has suspended all employee furloughs and that traffic facilities will begin returning to regular staffing levels over the next 24 hours. The bill, passed on Friday, allows the FAA to move as much as $253 million within its budget to areas that will allow it to prevent reduced operations and staffing.

President Barack Obama chided lawmakers Saturday over their fix for widespread flight delays, deeming it an irresponsible way to govern, dubbing it a "Band-Aid" and a quick fix, rather than a lasting solution to the spending cuts known as the sequester.