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Update 26 April, 2 pm: The US House of Representatives cleared legislation Friday that allows the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to shift $253 million from other accounts to end the furloughs that were aimed at reducing the FAA's budget before their fiscal year ends in September, reports USA Today.

With about 15,000 fewer air-traffic controllers on the job, the furloughs, which began on 22 April, caused 3,088 flight delays in just three days, the FAA reported.

The “Reducing Flight Delays Act of 2013”, which the Senate approved Thursday, gives the FAA the flexibility to shift pre-existing funds to keep controllers on the job and keep open some of the nearly 150 control towers at small- and medium-sized airports that were facing closure as a result of budget cuts.

Though the furloughs could end immediately under the bill, the FAA expects a lingering period of delays due to staffing changes, particularly in New York, Chicago, Tampa and the Southwest region.

Prior to the bill’s approval, two airline associations – Airlines for America and the Regional Airline Association – filed a motion with the Department of Transportation (DOT) to temporarily lift a 2009 ruling that prevents US flights and their passengers from remaining on the tarmac longer than three hours, arguing that it would provide airlines with the operating flexibility needed to respond to expected flight delays as a result of the furloughs.

The motion was filed as a response to the FAA’s projection that delays would reach 6,700 daily as a result of the furloughs, not including weather or mechanical delays. In all of 2012, the highest number of US flight delays experienced on a single day was 2,994, according to the motion.

While the approval of the Flight Delays Act could ensure fewer delays, it remains unclear how long it will take to enact as the US heads into peak flying season. When preparing to fly, take the following steps to help safeguard your schedule and sanity:

  • Catch an early morning flight to avoid a build up of delays later in the day.
  • Get there early and give yourself plenty of time between transfers and connecting flights.
  • Pick up food and water before boarding so you are not forced to pay airline prices for sandwiches, snacks and drinks in the event of a long wait.
  • Visit the restroom before you board and, if you are delayed, as soon as you are able to move around the cabin. On-board bathroom conditions can worsen as your time spent waiting on the tarmac increases.
  • Charge all electronic devices fully before boarding and keep phone calls short. Flight attendants should let you know when electronic devices are safe to use as you wait.

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