Airlines Adapt To New York Regional ATC Summer Shortages | AeroSpace News | #AeroSpaceNews Airlines Adapt To New York Regional ATC Summer Shortages | AeroSpace News | #AeroSpaceNews
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Posted by on 07 Apr 2023 in Airline News

Airlines Adapt To New York Regional ATC Summer Shortages

New York Air Traffic Controller Shortage

Concept art of airline passengers in a busy airport terminal impacted by delays due to the shortage of New York air traffic controllers.
Image credit: File archive in-house

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the agency responsible for regulating civil aviation in the United States, has published a notice of limited, conditional waiver of the minimum usage requirement that applies to Operating Authorizations (OA), also known as slots, at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), New York LaGuardia Airport (LGA), and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA). The waiver allows airlines to temporarily reduce their scheduled flights at these congested airports without losing their slots, due to a shortage of air traffic controllers at the New York Terminal Radar Approach Control (N90) facility.

The N90 facility handles the airspace around the three major New York City area airports: JFK, LGA, and Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR). It is one of the busiest and most complex air traffic control facilities in the world, but it is facing a significant staffing shortfall that could affect air travel in the region. According to the FAA, staffing at N90 remains below targets, and two in 10 air traffic controller positions nationwide are unfilled. The union representing air traffic controllers says staffing levels have dropped 10% over the last decade.

The FAA held a meeting with airlines and industry representatives to discuss ways to minimize the impact on passengers and operations. The agency agreed to requests by Delta Air Lines and United Airlines to temporarily return up to 10% of slots and flight timings at JFK, LGA, EWR, and DCA for flights from May 15 to Sept. 15. The carriers agreed to cuts on the condition they not be backfilled by other airlines. American Airlines and JetBlue Airways also announced their intent to slash service from some of these airports.

The FAA said it is giving airlines "the ability to reduce operations during the peak summer travel period, which are likely to be exacerbated by the effects of Air Traffic Controller staffing shortfalls." The agency also said it will reassign about 100 square miles of EWR airspace to the Philadelphia Terminal Radar Approach Control later this year to address staffing issues.

The waiver comes as airlines are struggling to meet burgeoning flight demands after the pandemic. According to Airlines for America, a trade group representing major US carriers, airlines have already cut about 10% of scheduled flights this spring to address performance issues. Last summer, air traffic control staffing was a factor in delays of 41,498 flights from New York airports, the FAA disclosed in March.

The average number of operations (takeoffs and landings) at JFK, LGA, and DCA during summer 2019 was 1,101, 1,239, and 1,006 per day respectively. During summer 2021, these numbers dropped to 718, 830, and 608 per day respectively, due to the impact of COVID-19 on air travel. The forecast for summer 2023 is not yet available, but it is expected to be higher than 2021 as travel demand recovers.


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