Twin Cities air travelers could experience long flight delays toward the end of April.
The problem is the $85 billion in automatic federal spending cuts known as the sequester. In response, the Federal Aviation Administration has been directed to reduce its budget by $600 million.
The agency has told air traffic controllers, safety inspectors and other employees that they could be furloughed for up to one day every two weeks, starting April 21.
"Delays in and out of Minneapolis ... I would anticipate to be 90 minutes. It would not surprise me to go 120 minutes. The sky is the limit," said Sam Tomlin, local president of the air traffic controllers' union. "These are facilities that are already hard to staff and very short-staffed."
Shifts at the airport control tower could be short three or four controllers, Tomlin said, and flight traffic would have to be slowed down once the furloughs start.
"Most days experience at least three controllers off the shift, on furlough," he said. "Normally, we would work nine to 11 people on a shift. You're looking at a reduction down to six, maybe seven controllers at a time, working."
The FAA itself has said there could be long delays at hub airports.