Sequester, automatic spending cuts could delay or cancel flights, close hundreds of small airports

Air travel impacted by looming massive budget cuts

SUBURBAN WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- - The countdown is on in Washington D.C. where $85 billion in automatic spending cuts are set to kick in March 1st if Congress does not do anything.

The "sequester," as it is known, will have a major impact on American lives especially when it comes to air travel.

People like Sam Moffatt, who was traveling from Palm Beach International Airport, feel flying is never easy. She plays the hammered dulcimer, a 40-pound instrument Moffatt lugs all over the country, playing gigs for a living.

"It's a big pain in the neck. I wish I played harmonica," said Moffatt.

The pain of flying for Moffatt and everyone else could become even more of a hardship.

If nothing is done by Congress to avoid the sequester by March 1st, there will be less TSA agents due to $600 million being cut from the Federal Aviation Administration.

"Obviously I don't like that idea and I feel sorry for the people doing it because it's just putting more stress on them (TSA agents)," said Moffatt.

The potential cuts do not just mean longer lines when folks are trying to get through security. It could also mean flight delays with fewer air-traffic controllers up in the towers.

"Safety is our top priority and we will never allow the amount of air travel we can't handle safely to take off and land which means travelers should expect delays," said Ray LaHood, the U.S. Transportation Secretary

LaHood made a surprise appearance at the White House on Friday to explain the impacts of the automatic budget cuts. He said with FAA workers taking furlough days, a 90-minute delay could be the new normal and eventually mean into flight cancelations.

"It's sad to hear that because it's already pretty stressful. It's sad to hear they're going to tighten it even more and make it harder on everyone," said Moffatt.

Moffatt said if flying gets worse, she will either cancel jobs or look to other ways of getting around.

LaHood also explained that more than 200 smaller airports could also close around the country. Locally, the cuts could shutter airports in Stuart, Boca Raton and Fort Pierce.

Full effects of the budget cuts could be felt as soon as April 1st.

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