The impact of the sequester hit our circle of friends, many of whom work in aviation, immediately. Over morning coffee less than a week after it went into effect, my husband shared an e-mail from a long-time pilot friend, Aidan, whose wife, Julie, works for the Federal Aviation Administration:
“Our family will now be losing a substantial amount of money for food, clothing, heating oil, etc. My wife will be forced to take a day without pay every pay period. It’s a huge blow to us.”
Air traffic control towers throughout New England will be closing, he said. “The list is enormous. Effective April 1, my job as a pilot just got far more dangerous. Those of you in aviation, brace for it...please stay informed and be safe. Everyone else, know that the national airspace is far less safe than it was.”
The truth is, many of us believed a solution would be reached. How could it not? One minute, we were joking about the absurdity of it, and the next minute, we’re living it.
That certainly includes you and your meeting attendees. Not only are air traffic controllers being cut, but also customs officers and Transportation Security Administration staff. Estimated flight delays of 90 minutes or more at the country’s busiest airports should start to kick in this April. Waits at TSA security checkpoints could grow an hour longer. Some smaller airports frequented by business travelers, such as Chicago’s Midway, could lose their midnight shifts.
The best quote I saw describing the potential slowdowns was from The Washington Post column, The Fact Checker. If all the worst-case scenarios come true, it said, “The effect … may simply be as if the entire United States is having a permanent bad weather day.”
More than likely, the reality for travelers will fall somewhere between a never-ending winter storm and where we were on March 2. We have to wait and see in the short-term, and very likely we’ll experience more delays during peak travel months. It might make sense to have people travel at off-hours to avoid the hassles. Meetings will go on. The stock market appears completely unfazed, surpassing its record high the day I wrote this.
I can only imagine how that makes Aidan and Julie—and the millions of Americans like them—feel. The stock market shrugged it off, will you?