Government Shutdown Forces Brief Closure of LaGuardia Airport, Nearby Newark Airport Facing Flight Delays

January 25, 2019, 3:45 PM UTC

A ripple effect of flight delays across the U.S. is expected after LaGuardia Airport was closed for a short period Friday morning by the Federal Aviation Administration, due to a lack of air traffic controllers.

Nearby Newark Airport faced significant delays for the same reason, adding to the nationwide air travel difficulties.

The LaGuardia delay, which was scheduled to last until 10:45am ET, according to the FAA website, resulted in flights being grounded for an average of 41 minutes. As of 11:00 a.m, however, the website was still showing the closure as being in effect.

Newark, meanwhile, continues experiencing gate holds and traffic delays averaging between 46 minutes and one hour, and the length is increasing the FAA said late Friday morning.

The action is the strongest signal to date that the ongoing government shutdown is significantly impacting air travel in the country and follows safety warnings from the airline industry’s three biggest unions earlier this week.

Leaders of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, Air Line Pilots Association and Association of Flight Attendants-CWA said, “We have a growing concern for the safety and security of our members, our airlines, and the traveling public due to the government shutdown. In our risk averse industry, we cannot even calculate the level of risk currently at play, nor predict the point at which the entire system will break. It is unprecedented.”

On Thursday, JetBlue Airways Corp. Chief Executive Officer Robin Hayes said air travel was reaching a “tipping point” because of the shutdown, warning of delays, long waits and flight cancellations.

“Our crew members and customers are likely to face extended security lines, flight delays, and even cancellations,” Hayes said. “And the longer this goes on, the longer it will take for the air travel infrastructure to rebound.”

The ground delay, while it was less than an hour long, is likely to put additional stress on the Trump administration to settle the ongoing shutdown. Earlier on Friday, before the FAA took the action, New York governor Andrew Cuomo issued an open letter to Trump urging him to reopen the airport, citing security fears at airports.

“If you do nothing, the situation at our airports will continue to deteriorate and our national security will be further compromised,” Cuomo wrote. “It’s time to stop playing political games with the safety of American citizens.”

Transportation Safety Administration workers and air traffic controllers have now been working for 35 days without pay. Friday was the second pay period where they received no check and more and more are not coming to work as a result. Beyond LaGuardia, some airports are closing security checkpoints to handle the staffing crisis, which is creating further delays for passengers.