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TODAY   |  April 23, 2013

Air traffic control furloughs delay hundreds of flights

Airlines are warning that if the government continues furloughing air traffic controllers, one in every three travelers could be hit with delays or cancellations during peak travel season. NBC’s Lisa Myers reports.

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>>> we're following two major stories this morning when it comes to flying a decision to delay allowing small knives back on planes and budget cuts from the sequester forcing thousands of air traffic controllers to take time off, slowing passengers. nbc's lisa myers is at washington's national airport good morning.

>> reporter: hey, savannah, good morning. the tsa decided to delay the decision to allow delay implementation of the rule to allow small knives on to planes. that decision will be delayed indefinitely. officials say it had nothing to do with the boston bombings or a renewed threat of terrorism but it was a matter of allowing more input. the flight attendants have been in an uproar about this and opponents will use this delay to kill this new rule all together. on furloughs we're now entering the third day of furloughs of air traffic controllers . so far we've seen hundreds of delays including some of more than three and a half hours in los angeles . now the airlines are warning that if these furloughs continue, one out of every three passengers could see major delays or cancellations during peak travel season. delays at laguardia, newark and charlotte. the faa blamed staffing and weather. ground delays and more spaces between flights around the country. it's the first time the public has felt the impact of across-the-board budget cuts from the sequester.

>> in certain places i believe cutbacks should not be happening.

>> i think it's horrible. there's enough problems dealing with delays and security and weather and other things when you're flying. i think they should furlough the president and congress.

>> reporter: the faa claims it had no choice but to put 15,000 controllers on you are paid furloughs, which means 10% fewer working each day. that could mean delays of three and a half hours in atlanta, more than two hours in chicago, and one hour and 20 minutes at laguardia. the airlines are furious and argue there are other places to cut.

>> the air traffic controllers have never been furloughed. they should not be furloughed now.

>> reporter: the controllers complain they're being used as political pawns.

>> it's the piece of sequestration that i think affects americans the most, and i don't think that it's fair that air traffic control particularly air traffic controllers are being used as a pawn.

>> reporter: transportation secretary ray lahood has a message for those who want the controllers back.

>> call your members of congress and tell them to fix the sques e and this will go away.

>> reporter: the administration says it will not accept a solution that merely puts air traffic controllers back to work, that any fix must roll back the entire sequester. that means that for air travelers the next few months could be a nightmare.

>> lisa myers at reagan national airport , thank you so much, although the airport music makes me feel better about what's going on.

>> you have to wait at least it's nice to have