"I think the fact that it got resolved this week has minimized the cost as it was more the inconvenience factor," Thomas said.
The budget cuts at the FAA were required under a law enacted two years ago as the government was approaching its debt limit. Democrats were in favor of raising the debt limit without strings attached so as not to provoke an economic crisis, but Republicans insisted on substantial cuts in exchange. The compromise was to require that every government "program, project and activity" — with some exceptions, like Medicare — be cut equally.
The FAA had reduced the work schedules of nearly all of its 47,000 employees by one day every two weeks, including 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. That amounted to a 10 percent cut in hours and pay.
Republicans accused the Obama administration of forcing the furloughs to raise public pressure on Congress to roll back the budget cuts. Critics of the FAA insist the agency could have reduce its budget in other ways that would not have inconvenience travelers including diverting money from other accounts, such as those devoted to research, commercial space transportation and modernization of the air traffic control computers.
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.
"Republicans claimed victory when the sequester first took effect, and now they've decided it was a bad idea all along," Obama said, singling out the GOP even though the bill passed with overwhelming Democratic support in both chambers.
He scolded lawmakers for helping the Federal Aviation Administration while doing nothing to replace other cuts that he said harm federal employees, unemployed workers and preschoolers in Head Start.