LaGuardia airport closed to incoming flights due to lack of air traffic controllers in shutdown

Harriet Alexander
LaGuardia airport in New York City has been shut by federal authorities

One of New York City's main airports has been partially shut by federal authorities, owing to a lack of air traffic controllers during the government shutdown.

LaGuardia airport, which serves 30 million passengers a year, was ordered to reduce its service due to a lack of staff.

Authorities have implemented a "ground delay" programme, meaning that planes leaving the airport face serious delays of 60-90 minutes.

Flights which are yet to take off to the airport have been halted.

Flights mid-air were still able to land.

The federal aviation authority (FAA) says the delay is only temporary, to deal with the problem.

“There is a traffic management programme in effect for traffic arriving LaGuardia Airport,” the FAA said.

“This is causing some arriving flights to be delayed an average of 41 minutes.”

The stop was ordered shortly before 10 am as the partial government shutdown has entered its 35th day.

A shortage of workers at an air traffic control facility in the Washington DC area prompted the agency to order a ground stop at LaGuardia, one of the country’s busiest transportation hubs.

A day before, airline executives warned that the shutdown was pushing aviation to "tipping point".

Flights out of Philadelphia and Newark were also delayed owing to shortages.

The government shutdown, amid a row over funding for President Donald Trump's border wall, is now in its 35th day, with no end in sight.

Airport security staff have been calling in sick to avoid working without pay.

Some employees have been asked to work overtime to make up for the staff shortages, but there are legal requirements for breaks and rest between shifts.

Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, wrote to Mr Trump on Friday demanding that he reopen the government due to growing security risks at airports.

Mr Cuomo, a strong critic of the president, said that the reduction of services and personnel in airports, including the mass amount of TSA officers calling in absent from work, and the amount of unpaid traffic air traffic controllers, is jeopardizing safety.

Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York, has strongly criticised the shutdown

"As the home of the 9/11 attacks, New York knows all too well how important security is at our airports," Mr Cuomo wrote. 

"Yet the government shutdown that you have created and are perpetuating is putting our travelers and public safety at risk.  

"Because of the shutdown that has continued for 35 days, airport personnel dedicated to ensuring the safety of our airports and air travel are missing their second pay checks. As a result, airports across the country, including hubs like JFK and LaGuardia, have seen a rise in the number of personnel calling out of work because of financial limitations.

"These hard-working men and women play a critical role in keeping our communities safe, and they deserve the support of our federal government."