Why Your Summer Travel Plans May Be Doomed

A shortage of air traffic control personnel could make summer travel plans more complicated due to a reduction in available flights.

By Charlene Badasie | Published

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The Federal Aviation Administration says an air traffic control staff shortage at a New York facility may affect summer travel plans. The agency is currently working with various airlines and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association to solve the potential crisis. This includes minimizing the impact on holiday makers by addressing the most urgent issues.

“The Federal Aviation Administration discussed efforts to reduce the air traffic control training backlog at many FAA air traffic facilities,” the agency said in a press release. However, employee levels at the New York Terminal Radar Approach Control (N90) are still severely below the required targets. The number of Certified Professional Controllers is currently at 80 percent across the United States.

Meanwhile, N90 staffing is only at 54 percent of its goal, USA Today reports. The New York facility provides services to John F. Kennedy International Airport, the Northeast Corridor, Newark Liberty International Airport, and LaGuardia Airport. The FAA says safety measures introduced during the pandemic affected training, resulting in an air traffic control shortage.

However, dedicated training programs have successfully reduced most of the backlog. The N90 is the only exception. The Federal Aviation Administration warning about the air traffic controller shortage follows a tedious 2022 summer travel season. Approximately 45,000 flights were canceled last year, delaying most trips by 15 minutes or more.

In 2023, the FAA expects a 45 percent increase in delays due to the air traffic controller shortage. This is directly due to operations rising as people embark on summer vacation. And, with airports located in close proximity, the problem is exacerbated. Fortunately, the FAA is taking steps to minimize difficulties for travelers.

Last month, the agency said the minimum-use requirements for takeoff and landing slots would be temporarily waived at JFK, LaGuardia, and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. The move will give the airlines more flexibility. The Federal Aviation Administration also plans to be more lenient with operating times at Newark Liberty to aid with the air traffic controller shortage.

The FAA also expects air carriers to actively work to minimize the impact on passengers. Airlines can do this by operating larger planes to transport more people. They also need to make sure that folks are informed about possible disruptions. As such, Delta Air and United Airlines have requested waivers, promising they would take steps to alleviate the air traffic controller shortage.

Airlines interested in applying for a waiver must seek approval from the Federal Aviation Administration by April 30. The agency is also reviewing feedback from participants. Using this information, it will identify actions to improve operations and solve the air traffic controller shortage in the New York area. Summer is a busy travel time in the United States, with June to August being the most active.

This is due to warm weather, which attracts large crowds. Summer is also the most profitable season for the travel industry, which is why the air traffic controller shortage needs to be addressed urgently. Air traffic controllers are tasked with coordinating the movement of air traffic, guiding pilots during takeoff and landing, and monitoring planes as they travel through the sky.