From the Travel desk

Fliers, be warned. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has suggested that flights could be delayed by as much as 90 minutes if the Federal Aviation Administration is forced to cut $600 million from its budget. In addition, passengers may have to wait as much as an hour before even getting to their gates because of staff reductions at Transportation Security Administration checkpoints, said Janet Napolitano, secretary of Homeland Security.

Air travel is one of the most obvious ways Americans will feel the impacts of sequestration, the automatic budget cuts that will most likely have gone into effect by the time Travel hits the newsstands.

While the real results of across-the-board cuts are still a matter of speculation — at least until the reductions hit the runways — and aren’t expected to be widely felt until April, sequestration has already had an impact on the world of travel.

Last Thursday, the U.S. State Department canceled its plans for Passport Day in the USA, which had been set for March 9. The Minneapolis Passport Agency, which usually handles only expedited passport applications, had planned to open all 13 of its windows to take applications on Saturday.

Patrick Hogan, spokesman with the Metropolitan Airports Commission, said it is too early to know how Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport would be affected, though he knows that the FAA plans to furlough up to 10 percent of its air traffic controllers. The TSA has told MAC that it sees no delays, at least in the short term.

“My hope is that the reality won’t be as bad as people fear,” Hogan said.

 

Send your questions or tips to travel editor Kerri Westenberg at travel@startribune.com, and follow her on twitter @kerriwestenberg.

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