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Even with a bill to ease furloughs, flight delays may continue

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Travelers stand in line at Los Angeles International Airport on Monday, a tough start to the week for many air travelers because of flight delays.AP

See, it appears that Congress can act fast. 

The House cleared legislation Friday that allows the Federal Aviation Administration to shift $253 million from other accounts to end furloughs that began Sunday. The bill should avert furloughs of air traffic controllers, as well as closures of small airport towers. The Senate approved the bill Thursday night.

"I couldn't see the FAA staffing cuts lasting much longer, since Congress flies commercial most of the time," said George Hobica, founder of the website Airfarewatchdog.com. "It's amazing how quickly they acted considering the disfunction in Washington."

So, does this mean that travel woes are coming to an end?  Probably, but not immediately, say travel experts. 

First, President Obama has to sign the bill.  Then airports will need time to clear the backlog.

Mark Drusch, chief supplier relations officer at CheapOair, says expect delays in the short term, especially at the high-volume metropolitan-area airports, such as in New York City and Atlanta, which run nearly at capacity.

Something else to think about: According to the FAA, about 40 percent of delays this week were a result of not enough controllers in towers. That leaves plenty of other reasons, such as weather, why a traveler could get stuck at the airport over the next several days.

For the time being, allow yourself some extra time. "What I've been telling people is if you’re traveling on business, don’t book your meeting right after you land. Give yourself wiggle room," says Drusch.

Hobica adds, "If you do fly, nonstop flights only, assume you'll be late and plan accordingly."

The good news is that travelers shouldn't see a change in ticket prices --that is unless the airlines have to pull down capacity of flights.  It looks like the bill has avoided that possibility, but you never know.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said Friday: “This is no more than a temporary Band-Aid that fails to address the overarching threat to our economy posed by the sequester’s mindless, across-the-board cuts.”