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Sequestration could mean longer lines in airports

By KECI Staff
Published On: Feb 22 2013 09:54:55 PM MST
Missoula airport officials hope to bring in new airline
MISSOULA, Mont. -

If Congress fails to reach an agreement to avoid sequestration, the automatic budget cuts set to start on March 1, it could have serious impacts on air travel.

Secretary of Transportation Ray Lahood warned today that cutbacks within the FAA could result in fewer air traffic controllers, forcing the closure of more than 100 control towers nationwide, including those at Helena Regional Airport and Glacier International Airport.

That's not the only problem.

Budget cuts to the TSA could mean a harder time clearing security.

"We believe it would be with the same equipment and the same process," says Missoula International Airport director Cris Jensen. "But it may be that we don't have enough staff to man two checkpoint lines so your wait time goes up considerably."

Jensen tells NBC Montana that Missoula is not in danger of closing its control tower, and doesn't foresee closures at other airports impacting those traveling from the Garden City.

"I don't expect the airlines will say, 'Instead of going to Helena or Kalispell, we're going to go to Missoula or Bozeman or Billings,' so I wouldn't expect an impact from those closures.

But the staff at Missoula International is paying attention to developments in the nations capitol.

"We absolutely are concerned. Anything that might impact the traveler experience in a negative way is something that we're concerned about,"says Jensen.

Jensen also says airports that have to close their towers may be able to still have commercial air service.  Bert Mooney Airport in Butte does not have a control tower, and has commercial service.