Flight delays caused by the staffing challenges at airports across the country could sour consumers on flying.
Already, departing traffic dipped in March at both of Oklahoma's major commercial airports. Outbound travelers were down by 1.3 percent at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City and 4.5 percent at Tulsa International Airport.
Tulsa's traffic has been consistently down for months and airport spokeswoman Alexis Higgins worries that sequestration could negatively impact consumer perception.
“I don't think it's good for aviation. Whether or not the delays are real or perceived, people think it won't go as planned,” she said. Tulsa's airport hasn't experienced delays this week, but many other airports have.
Friday, Congress approved legislation that will end the furloughs of air traffic controllers. The bill lets the Federal Aviation Administration use up to $253 million from airport improvement and other funds to pay air traffic controllers through Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year.
Now is the time when many travelers are thinking about booking summer travel, so hearing about nationwide flight delays could be detrimental to the industry, Higgins added.
Karen Carney, a spokeswoman for Will Rogers World Airport, said since sequestration began, travelers have been a little more cautious about flying. Another issue affecting March travel is spring break, which now extends for two weeks in the Oklahoma City Public Schools system. Carney said more families may be choosing to drive to their vacation destination because of the extra time.
Lawton-Fort Sill Regional Airport
Lawton-Fort Sill Regional Airport had 3,761 departing travelers in March, a 19.5 percent decrease compared to March 2012. Overall, outbound traffic is down 11.9 percent for the year.