Logan Airport prepares for budget-cutting turbulence

Gennaro Ruocco, who picked up wife, Nancy, at Logan Saturday, said the anticipated cuts won’t affect his travels.
Gal Tziperman Lotan for The Boston Globe
Gennaro Ruocco, who picked up wife, Nancy, at Logan Saturday, said the anticipated cuts won’t affect his travels.

As details emerge about the impacts of federal sequestration, officials at Logan International Airport are girding for severe budget cuts that they fear will impede their ability to safely direct traffic in the air, on the ground, and in security lines.

Meanwhile, travelers interviewed at the airport Saturday expressed a mixture of wariness, frustration, and resignation at the specter of delays and crowded lines that could become commonplace at Logan because of the cuts.

While federal departments, nonprofit organizations, and educational institutions around the country scramble to discern the implications of the across-the-board cuts, many airport employees already received word about when, and how hard, the ax will drop.


For Logan’s air traffic controllers, the cutbacks will take the form of furlough days: 11 forced unpaid days off for first-tier staff, and as many as 22 days for other staff, between early April and the end of September.

Get Fast Forward in your inbox:
Forget yesterday's news. Get what you need today in this early-morning email.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

And seven individuals in the midst of training to become first-row traffic controllers will probably have to halt indefinitely.

“It’s something everybody is thinking about,” said Jim Peterson, the Logan facility representative for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, a labor union.

“While we’re upstairs, we’re trying not to let anything be a distraction to our jobs,” Peterson said. “But it’s on everybody’s minds.”

Those staffing cutbacks will probably translate into real-world effects, Peterson said, as fewer workers would be available to make all the necessary repairs required at a large airport on a daily basis.


“What’s going to happen is that if there’s a major breakdown of any component, it may not be back up and running as quick as it usually would be.”

And travelers, he said, will most likely notice the difference.

“If you have fewer controllers watching, you’re going to have to slow things down a little bit,” he said.

On Saturday afternoon, most travelers arriving and departing from the East Boston travel hub seemed concerned about the potential impacts on their travel — but had different opinions on who deserved the blame for the predicament.

Jen Lohnes of Needham, who arrived at Logan Saturday from a vacation in the Dominican Republic, said staffing cuts could make the worst aspects of her trip even more unbearable.


“I think that’ll be terrible,” she said. “Those are my least favorite parts of traveling — taxiing and going through security. . . . When you go on vacation, you want the best use of your time.”

James Watson, Scottish-born but now a Providence resident, was waiting at Terminal E for his wife to return from a trip to Dublin. He said he likes to get in and out of airports as fast as he can.

“I don’t fancy waiting any longer,” said Watson.

Rick Melberth of South Strafford, Vt., en route to Rome with his wife for a business trip and vacation, said TSA cuts will make flying frustrating, especially for frequent travelers.

“I think this is one of the silliest things Congress and the administration have done,” Melberth said. “There’s no appetite for compromise in the Capitol. I blame the Republicans more than I blame the Democrats.”

But in the grand scheme of things, longer airport lines could be negligible, said Fergus Shiel of Dedham.

“I think the government’s got to start cutting spending, and it’s a small price to pay,” he said. “I’m sure I’ll get as annoyed as anyone else will, but in totality, it won’t make the trip that much longer.”

Shiel’s views paralleled those of another local traveler, Tom Oldham of Bolton, who said the cuts sound like a political strategy more than a necessity.

“I think it was a scare tactic by the administration more than anything else,” he said.

Oldham, on his way to Florida for a vacation, said he does not expect longer lines to disrupt his travels. “I think we’ll adjust to it,” he said.

Gennaro Ruocco of Windham, N.H., returning from Disney World in Florida, said he is not happy with any potential slowdowns, but cuts won’t keep him from flying.

“If you have to travel, you have to travel,” he said. “And we’re really not sure of what the consequences of the cuts would be.”

Ruocco said he believes neither Congress nor the Obama administration is doing enough to compromise.

“The entire government is totally ineffective,” he said. “I think that both parties and both branches of government [involved] are equally at fault.”

Faith Norley, on her way home to Seattle after two weeks in a Harvard Business School leadership program, said she could put up with delays.

“It’s nothing that we can’t get used to,” she said. “I’m still going to be able to get to where I need to go; it might just take longer.”

Martine Powers can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @martinepowers. Gal Tziperman Lotan can be reached at l.lotan@globe.