(CNN) — WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Fliers beware -- with Federal Aviation Administration furloughs beginning Sunday, air travelers could begin experiencing significant travel delays early next week, top transportation officials say.
Major hub airports will experience average delays of 10, 20, 30 minutes or even longer. But the waits could soar in some instances when furloughs force airports to close down runways because there won't be enough traffic controllers.
Officials point to Los Angeles International Airport, where waits could exceed an hour. At Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson, delays could run three and a half hours under certain circumstances. And those predicted wait times could grow longer if compounded by bad weather or equipment outages.
A dour Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and his FAA administrator, Michael Huerta, briefed reporters in Washington on Thursday, saying the public needs to be informed about the impacts of the forced spending cuts, known as the sequester.
The Department of Transportation needs to cut $1 billion from its budget, with some $637 million of that coming from the FAA.
Congressional Republicans say the DOT could have chosen less harmful cuts. But LaHood, himself a Republican, says there's no way to cut a billion dollars without impacting services.
"We have done everything within the sequestration law to do everything possible... to find a billion dollars, and if we had our way we probably wouldn't be sitting here," said LaHood.
"This is very painful. This is not what we signed up for. This is a dumb idea. Sequester is a dumb idea. Not one person in America would use the sequester to figure out their budget. It's a meat-ax approach." he added.
LaHood and Huerta said they will not compromise safety.
"We will only allow the number of aircraft we can safely manage to fly. And I want to make it abundantly clear, we will not take a backseat to safety during sequestration," LaHood said.