The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced on Twitter on Friday morning that delays would affect LaGuardia International Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport due to the effects of the government shutdown, potentially delaying air cargo operations at these airports.
“My first impression is that now the pressure is going to really begin, both on the passengers and to a lesser extent on the cargo side.” said Brandon Fried, executive director of the Airforwarders Association – a trade association representing the air freight industry. “We’ve seen delays, but not ground stops. I’m sure the airlines are concerned as are their passengers. If these delays persist, air cargo will be as concerned.”
According to the Airforwarders Association, half of all air cargo is moved on passenger carriers in the U.S, making air freight vulnerable to passenger flight delays.
According to the FAA, Newark is the 12th largest cargo airport in the United States with 2.99 billion pounds of landed weight (arriving air cargo volume) in 2017. Newark’s annual landed weight grew by almost 7 percent in volume from 2016. Newark also serves as a regional hub for FedEx (FDX: NYSE). Philadelphia airport is the 17th largest cargo airport in the U.S. with over two billion pounds of landed weight in 2017. Philadelphia is a hub for American Airlines (AAL: NASDAQ) which derives 5 percent of its revenue from air cargo.
CNBC reported that flights out of Newark in New Jersey were delayed up to 45 minutes while CNN reported that flights out of LaGuardia were delayed by 15 to 30 minutes. Philadelphia International Airport was most affected, with flights being delayed over an hour.
“We have experienced a slight increase in sick leave at two facilities,” the FAA said referencing the reason given for not showing up to work used by air traffic controllers and TSA agents who have not been paid due to lapsed federal funding. “We are mitigating the impact by augmenting staffing, rerouting traffic, and increasing spacing between aircraft as needed.”
As Northeast air travel is disrupted by the ongoing government shutdown, it’s likely that air freight movement will be delayed by the overstressed system.
“The region is one of the most trafficked airspace in the world, with 20 percent of all airline passengers in the country traveling out of airports in the Northeast, according to the FAA.” said CNN.
A number of other civilian aviation groups have expressed similar concerns for the operational integrity of the industry as the shutdown continues.