Airlines: Don’t fine us for sequester flight delays

“Airlines for America and the Regional Airline Association ... hereby request that the Department grant a limited exemption ... that would exclude all flights in the month of April 2013 from the ‘chronically delayed flight’ designation/status due to the substantial delays and disruption to air travel that occurred from the Federal Aviation Administration decision to implement daily ground delays and reduce air traffic control personnel as part of its sequestration implementation plan adopted in response to the Budget Control Act of 2011 and the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012,” the groups wrote in their petition.

The FAA purposely delayed flights at major airports from April 21-27 because the agency furloughed about 10 percent of its air traffic controllers in response to the automatic budget cuts known as the sequester. Congress quickly passed a bill to give the FAA flexibility to move money around in its budget to end the flight delays as passenger complaints mounted.

The airline groups’ petition said all of its flights for April should be omitted from the DOT’s delay count because the industry’s scheduling was done before the sequester cuts were put into place.

“Airlines’ flight schedules were devised and implemented in a timely manner and in good faith based on the airlines’ (and the traveling public’s) reasonable expectation that the FAA would be able to accommodate projected flight volumes at the affected airports and across the NAS generally,” the airline petition said.

“Flights were sold in the normal course of business months in advance of the furlough plan, planes were full, and the delays and flight cancellations that resulted from the FAA’s furlough plan caused tremendous turmoil for the traveling public,” the petition continued.

A spokesman for the DOT declined to comment on the airline groups' request, saying only that the petition is "under review."

The full airline petition can be read here.

-This story was updated with new information at 4:25 p.m.