16,000 complain about flight delays

Delays at airports around the country have been blamed on air traffic controller furloughs from the sequester.

More than 16,000 people have left comments on the airline industry's website pressuring Washington to end the air traffic controller furloughs that have been blamed for flight delays this week.

The website, DontGroundAmerica.com, was created by Airlines for America (A4A) and the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) to encourage passengers to blame the government instead of airlines for flight delays that resulted from sequester furloughs. It argues the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) actions are "unnecessary and reckless."

The FAA has been furloughing air traffic controllers since Sunday because of the sequester. The agency has said that more than 2,000 flights that were otherwise ready to go were delayed on Monday and Tuesday alone because of the budget cuts.

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The airline industry's website encourages visitors to "tell Congress and the [Obama] administration that you oppose FAA-imposed flight delays."

The website includes a form letter it says will be sent to lawmakers and the administration. The letter has been completed by 16,369 people, according to a counter on the Web page.

The signatures come as lawmakers scrabbled on Wednesday and Thursday to avoid blame for the flight delays. 

A group of 10 senators have introduced a bill that would allow the agency to make transfers between its budget accounts to end the air traffic controller furloughs. Additionally, Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has proposed using war savings to replace sequester cuts, such as the FAA furloughs. 

Airlines in some cases have been making announcements on airplanes and at gates telling passengers to contact lawmakers if they are unhappy with their flights being pushed back.

The FAA has said that it has implemented a "traffic management" plan since the sequester furloughs began to make sure that it can safely manage the number of airplanes that are taking off and landing at major airports. The agency has said that it is working with a reduced staff of about 10 percent.

As a result, the agency is delaying some flights that would leave on time under normal circumstances to ease air traffic congestion.

The FAA has said that it cannot avoid furloughing air traffic controllers because the sequester law requires federal agencies to make equal cuts across their budgets. The FAA is required to reduce its spending by $600 million between now and the end of the 2013 fiscal year in September.

The agency has about 15,000 air traffic controllers out of a total workforce of 47,000.