An error by controllers at an air traffic center put planes too close to each other over central Illinois. It was the second error by controllers at the FAA's Chicago Center radar facility in Aurora reported in a week, Friday, Dec. 21, 2007. (CBS/iStockphoto)
WASHINGTON (CNNMoney) -- Flight delays are here.
Just like the government warned a few months ago, air travelers have started experiencing late flights caused by forced federal spending cuts. On Monday afternoon, all three New York City-area airports reported delays for all incoming flights, in part because fewer air traffic controllers reported for duty as they were forced to take unpaid time off, according to unions and airline trade groups.
Charlotte Douglas International Airport was also reporting "ground delays" with extra wait time averaging of 20 minutes due to furloughs and weather problems, according to Victoria Day of Airlines for America, a trade group for the major airlines.
Furloughs kicked in on Sunday for 47,000 Federal Aviation Administration workers, including 15,000 air traffic controllers.
"Throughout today, the FAA has put in place a series of traffic management initiatives around the country to manage both reduced staffing as a result of employee furloughs and weather related issues," Department of Transportation Press Secretary Justin Nisly said in a statement.
The FAA said there were 400 furlough-related flight delays Sunday. On Sunday night, flights into to New York's John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia airports were delayed by an average of 70 minutes.
Also on Sunday, two Alaska Airlines flights destined for Los Angeles International Airport were diverted 60 miles away to Ontario International Airport Sunday night due to furloughs and bad weather. The airline had to bus passengers to LAX. The airline also waived rebooking fees through Tuesday, citing furloughs.
It's only the beginning -- FAA workers have to take a total of 11 days by September. They must take off at least one day every two weeks. That means 1,500 controllers could be off a day, or 10% of the workforce.
The delays hit earlier than expected -- only last week, Washington officials had predicted that delays could hit Monday.
"The best indicator of what this is going to be like is (that) we ran delays on Sunday -- not one of the busiest days of the week -- ... on a perfect weather day," said Stephen Abraham, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association representative in JFK.
The FAA must cut $637 million from its budget by the end of September, part of some $85 billion of automatic, across-the-board spending cuts that kicked in on March 1st.