5 Ways to Manage Federal Furlough Flight Delays for NFO Shipping
With Congress unable to reach a budget agreement, automatic federal furloughs have been enacted to trim budgets immediately. The FAA has been given the task of cutting out $637 million from its budget this year by September. So 47,000 Federal Aviation Administrators and 15,000 Air Traffic Controllers have been forced into mandatory unpaid leave. Unfortunately for travelers and next flight out (NFO) shippers this has created some considerable challenges and headaches to say the least. Right now JFK and LaGuardia are anticipating about 70 minute delays across the board on all flights. There may be as many as 6,000 flight delays a day until a budget agreement is reached, with the worst delays in our nation's most trafficked airports.
For NFO shippers these delays can become a considerable problem. Aerospace shippers with AOG parts needed to get aircraft back up and running are losing valuable time for mechanics to make proper repairs, causing even further delays. Healthcareshippers with critical shipments of medical parts to get hospital equipment functioning or life saving medical devices for patients on table are at risk. Delays for the most critical life science packages of lifesaving blood, tissue, and organs could literally be the difference between life and death.
So for people out there with the most critical NFO shipments, how do you manage risk during this difficult time? I'm going to outline 5 ways for you to work with your courier or expedited transportation provider to make sure your shipments get there ASAP.
1. Regional Ground Courier Options
If you have a need for a same day shipment, the best option may be to not put it in the air at all. If you are looking at a regional move, especially on the East Coast the best option may be for a hot shot courier drive. The customer service rep should be able to present options to you for your given pick-up and delivery scenario. Your rep should be able to tell you the ETA of your shipment factoring in average delays versus your ETA with a straight shot ground courier move. The ground shipment is going to be more expensive because of the driver labor and fuel costs but the benefits are greater control, more accurate delivery times, and not being at the mercy of airline issues. At a certain distance point, this doesn't make sense from a cost perspective but it's important your carrier provides you with options.
2. Utilize Less Trafficked Airports
The FAA has advised that furlough-driven delays are most likely at the following airports:
- New York- LaGuardia
- New York- JFK
- Newark- Liberty
- Fort Lauderdale
- Chicago- O'Hare
- Chicago- Midway
- San Francisco
- Los Angeles- LAX
- San Diego
Your expedited courier should present flight options into and out of the less trafficked airports. Although it may present longer drives on the pick-up or delivery end of the shipment, it will probably payoff in spades in avoiding air traffic control delays at these overrun airports. For instance if you have a package going to Metro Los Angeles, CA, it may make more sense for the courier to route your package into SNA (John Wayne) or ONT (Ontario) instead of using the highly busy LAX Airport. The plane your package is on should be able to land quicker, be off-loaded faster, and recovered by the local driver quicker. Again, this may add a few more drive miles to your shipment driving up the costs slightly. The important thing is to be presented with these options by your carrier for you to make an informed choice.
3. Utilize Cargo Flights & Charter Service
Another option your next flight out carrier should be able to provide is access to cargo flights. Cargo flights traditionally leave late at night, but still provide a very early AM delivery. They usually fly in and out of the smaller airports and experience very little delays. The flight options aren't as robust but they usually run like clockwork which is a big advantage. If the situation is at critical mass you should be able to request a charter quote for an entire plane. Now I know what you are thinking...expensive right? For cargo charter it might not be as expensive as your think. Depending on distance, where the equipment is located, and proximity of pilot can all affect the rate. But, if it absolutely has to get there, this is your very best option.
4. Track Flight On-Time Performance
When you are choosing your courier partner, you should ask how they track on-time performance of the airlines. Not only normal historical data, but how they are tracking performance during these federal furlough delays. The customer service rep routing your shipments should be able to help you make informed decisions based on airline and flight performance. It may be worth holding the shipment back from the first available flight, because their in-house data system tells them that the next available flight experiences little or no delays. Make sure to ask your carrier how or if they monitor airline performance because it really affects performance over time.
5. Life Guard Program in Place for Organ and Tissue Shipments
For organ procurement or tissue bank organizations the cost of a failed shipment can literally mean the difference between life and death. Make sure the courier you choose has a Life Guard program in place with the airlines. The Life Guard program is where the airlines are pre-alerted to the level of urgency to all staff in the origin, flight crew, and delivering airport. The shipment is also pre-booked with the airlines a minimum of an hour before departure. Lastly, make sure your NFO carrier has internal processes for elevated visibility and communication to all parties involved in the transplant.
We've provided some tips to managing your NFO shipments during these tough times. The key to surviving this period of federal furloughs is working with a transportation partner that offers options. Options in terms or routing, but also in alternative forms of transportation outside of the regular commercial airlines. I don't know if or when this budget issue will be resolved, but we will remain vigilant in providing ways to help you manage it best you can.