Air Traffic Controllers Say Government Shutdown Suspension is Good but Bittersweet

PITTSTON TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- The board at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport shows flight are running smoothly and on time.

But for the people directing those planes on and off the runway, life has been tense for the last 35 days as a partial government shutdown stopped air traffic controllers from receiving paychecks.

Now, that shutdown has been suspended as President Trump announced that lawmakers in Washington agreed on a deal to reopen the government.

“It's good knowing that we're finally getting paid,” said Lenny Ameika, the president of the local National Air Traffic Controllers Association. “That's all we wanted. We didn't care about the other issues. We didn't care about the wall. We didn't care about anything else but paying us for doing our work. We came every day. We did our job. We did our job well.”

Ameika is also an air traffic controller at the airport. He says this news is bittersweet as the shutdown is expected to be back on on February 15.

“I'm going to get back pay now, but the interest from credit cards keeps racking up, any kind of late fees add up, and it's just like, you're paying for gas, you're paying for yourself to go to work, so it adds up and it takes its toll on you,” said Ameika.

“They're here. They're not being paid, but they're still doing a good job and being very nice and pleasant to the people who come through the airport. It's big deal,” said Carl Beardsley, the executive director of the airport.

Workers at the airport say if there's one good thing to come out of all of this, it's all the support the community has given them.

A room inside the airport is now a make shift food and necessities pantry filled with donated goods to help those workers get by.

“From food, there's paper towels, toiletries, you just see all the stuff. None of them know us. We don't know them,” said Ameika.

“Heartwarming, absolutely heartwarming to see the amount of people,” said Beardsley.

Ameika says he's told that starting Monday their paychecks will begin being processed.

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