Air travelers to feel pain from possible sequester - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Air travelers to feel pain from possible sequester

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

The Obama administration is warning air travelers could feel the pain if Congress and the president can't agree on a plan to avoid massive budget cuts.

Air traffic controllers and TSA officers could be forced to take furloughs other programs could be cut.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood describes a dire situation saying there could be significant flight delays and some air traffic control towers could be closed. Memphis International Airport's executive director says they're aware of the situation but they don't think the cuts will significantly impact this region's main airport.

Larry Cox said his staff believes will have enough air traffic controllers to keep up with normal operations, even though Memphis International is the busiest cargo airport in the United States, it doesn't face the same kind of congestion other airports like Atlanta and Chicago and John F. Kenney in Washington, D.C., face.

When it comes to the TSA checkpoints, Cox said they plan to use only one checkpoint rather than three to concentrate all the officers on duty.

"We work very closely with the FAA and with the TSA and with our airlines and so forth to make sure that whatever happens, whether it's something that's planned or unplanned, that we can operate the airport efficiently because the airport is so important to the economy here in Memphis," Cox said.

The proposed Federal Aviation Administration cuts could be a big deal for the Millington Jetport. Its air traffic control tower is on a list of towers slated to close if the cuts move forward.

In addition to Millington four additional airports in Tennessee would likely be impacted if automated federal budget cuts take effect on March 1. Air traffic control towers would also be closed at regional airports in Smyrna and Jackson while overnight staffing could be eliminated at airport towers in Nashville and Knoxville.

Under the impending cuts, the FAA would have to slice $600 million from its budget this year. In order to do that, a majority of workers would be furloughed and more than 100 towers at smaller airports nationwide could be closed.

All of this hinges on whether Congress and the president can come up with a deal to avoid these mandatory cuts before Friday.

If they don't, the transportation department says the service disruptions would start on April 1.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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