If the spending cuts known as the sequester proceed unimpeded, they could create major problems for air travel with "long-lasting consequences," the union representing air traffic controllers said in a report on Wednesday.
The National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) said in the report that increased delays, higher costs and lags in air traffic upgrades would be felt by travelers, pilots, airlines, business and the military.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Federal Aviation Administration head Michael P. Huerta have warned that cuts could lead to air traffic control towers being closed and traffic controllers furloughed.
Should the cuts occur as scheduled, travelers would begin to notice the impact in mid-April, according to NATCA. The union and federal officials have said that the loss of towers and controllers would lead to fewer flights and longer delays.
And if these cuts remain in place going forward, the impact on air travel would be substantial as aviation workers could face hiring freezes and job losses, the traffic controllers said..
"The negative effects on the aviation system made under sequestration could become permanent or be difficult, if not impossible, to reverse once they are implemented," the report said.
Huerta, speaking on Wednesday in downtown Washington, warned that dozens of air traffic control towers at smaller airports could be closed due to the cuts.
The Regional Airline Association said recently that small communities relying on regional airlines would bear a considerable brunt of the sequester.
"The communities most dependent on scheduled service from regional airlines for their only connection to the global economy will be hurt the most," RAA president Roger Cohen said last week in a statement.