PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The government shutdown got personal for travelers at Pittsburgh International Airport on Friday.
“My flight was supposed to be 11 this morning so it’s been delayed a couple times,” Morgan Masci said.
Morgan and thousands of others travelers were the travel victims of air traffic controllers who called off sick in New York. The FAA significantly slowed down LaGuardia traffic due a lack of controllers for safety reasons.
The impact sent ripple effects across the eastern half of the country.
Airport spokesman Bob Kerlik said around noon that Pittsburgh had “seen about a dozen delays into LaGuardia right now.”
The slowdown at LaGuardia impacted travelers throughout the afternoon arriving and departing Pittsburgh International.
Bob Cooke was trying to get home to Connecticut.
“Nobody likes to be delayed whey they are trying to travel and obviously be concerned about the safety as well as the reliability of the overall system,” he said.
Despite the inconvenience, travelers were empathetic to the plight of the government workers.
“I completely understand their frustration and why they are making the choices they are making,” Danielle Harris, of Penn Hills, said.
She and her mom, Roxanne, were on their way to a getaway in the big apple.
“I admire them for being able to go through this and still come to work. It’s got to be so difficult,” Roxanne said.
Bill McPhail is a frequent traveler and was on his last leg to New York. He says he’s expected issues since the shutdown started but Friday was his first delay.
“I feel for them dramatically. They are doing all they can without a paycheck and as we all know, we’ve got monthly obligations to deal with and you can’t do it without money,” he said.
As the delays continued into the evening, word came of the agreement to end the government shutdown for three weeks. Kerlik says with the possibility of the shutdown returning, they’ll continue their contingency planning.
“We are a designated diversion airport for the northeast, meaning that if there is problems with the New York airspace, it’s possible we could get diverted flights here. We have a stranded passenger plan we could put into place and we also have area hotels that could accept people should flights get diverted here overnight,” he said.
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The airport’s TSA employees are among the federal workers who know that with this latest deal, they’ll get paid again, but their union president says they’re still on edge.
“For a temporary fix, this is great news, but I’m still worried about 21 days from now. Are we gonna be back right back in this situation again?” Bill Reese, AFGE Local 332 president, said.
Thousands of federal workers in the area who have gone without paychecks turned to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank for help. Traci Weatherford-Brown, with the food bank, says they’re thankful for the temporary government restart.
“It gives everyone a chance to take their breath and reset, but we also know those workers are still gonna need us,” she said.
She says the federal workers she spoke to said they were depleting their assets during the shutdown.
“When we talked to federal workers, they were delaying payments, they were taking out small loans, they were getting advances on their paychecks, and all those things will need to be repaid,” Weatherford-Brown said.
Everyone hopes that both sides in Washington can iron out a permanent fix, but the worries haven’t disappeared just yet.
“It makes me believe in 21 days, we’ll probably be right here doing the same things we’ve been doing over the last five weeks — worrying and wondering when our next pay day is gonna come,” Reese said.