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Some travel agencies feeling furloughs’ impact

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Flight delays caused by furloughs of air traffic controllers, a problem creating widespread headaches for passengers, is doing the same for some travel businesses.

Grace Cutri, owner of DC Travel Bureau Inc. in Jersey City, said she has received four cancellations in the last three days. She estimates business is down 5 percent over that time. She is more worried about the coming days, noting that two couples have scheduled luxury tours to Europe costing $20,000 each.

“It’s absolutely crazy,” Cutri said. “To have people call: ‘What am I going to do? How am I going to connect? It’s a nightmare.”

While the uncertainty worries passengers and agents, a statewide travel group says it’s too early to conclude that budget cuts and furloughs have impacted New Jersey industry.

Joe Simonetta, executive director of the New Jersey Travel Industry Association, said via email his group is lobbying the state’s congressional delegates to mitigate the potential impact of furloughs by easing burdens on international travel. That includes supporting the JOLT act, which aims to streamline the visa process, Simonetta said.

Flights at several East Coast airports including Newark and JFK on Monday were delayed by several hours because of the furloughs, the result of Federal Aviation Administration budget cuts following the March 1 sequester.

FAA officials have said they have no choice but to furlough all 47,000 agency employees, including nearly 15,000 controllers. Each employee will lose one day of work every other week, according to The Associated Press.

The FAA has said that planes will have to take off and land less frequently to alleviate workload of remaining controllers on duty. The government’s current fiscal year runs through Sept. 30.

Cutri blames both parties and branches of government for allowing budget feuds to result in these cuts. Now travel agents are fielding complaints from worried passengers, she said.

“What am I going to do?” Cutri said. “Tell them to call the President? Call Congress?’

But another travel agent reached Tuesday said her business has not been impacted by furloughs. Cathy Jackson, owner of Sunsational Vacancies in Jackson, said clients have not called in with questions or concerns.

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