TAMPA, Florida - Crystal Leach arrived at Tampa International around 5:00 Tuesday afternoon for a flight to Newark. Nearly four hours later, she and her two sons were still sitting at the airport waiting for an aircraft delayed because of budget cuts and furloughs for air traffic controllers.
"It's a huge headache," said Leach as she watched "American Idol" on her iPad to kill time. "My sister has to pick me up from the airport, she has to be to work in the morning, so if we're leaving here at 10:44 we're not going to get there to well after midnight. It's a headache not just for me, but anyone else involved."
Experts say even though furloughs just kicked in over the past weekend, frustration among passengers is starting to grow.
"This is unpredictable," said USA Today aviation reporter Ben Mutzabaugh. "I don't want to say it's a crap shoot for your particular flight, but in a lot of ways that is how it is."
Mutzabaugh says while it may be impossible to predict if your flight is going to be late there could be options to reduce the odds of disruption.
"I would say morning flights are going to be less likely to have problems from furlough delays. If you're flying on a weekend, my guess is that's going to be better because flight schedules are going to be less."
He also suggests passengers download their airline's app to their smart phone, allowing for near real-time updates and opportunities to re-book their flights when things go wrong without having to wait in long lines at the ticket counter.
As for Crystal Leach, she says Tuesday's nightmare has the family reconsidering future trips, unsure how long these delays will last when it comes to flying.
"It's about money," says an angry Leach. "We're all losing money because I'm not at work, and they're going to lose some education, and don't forget I paid for this flight!"