According to flight database experts, the cuts could increase ticket prices in the region.
US legacy carriers, American Airlines, United Airlines, and Delta Air Lines, will reduce the number of flights to New York City airports this summer due to a shortage of air traffic controllers. JetBlue Airways, headquartered in Long Island City, a neighborhood in the New York borough of Queens, has also indicated that it will cut back flights.
The move comes after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) predicted that staffing for air traffic controllers would be less than 55% of the amount needed in the region. While the shortage is not recent, the time to train new ATC personnel is contributing to the problem.
A domino effect
Flights at New York John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), LaGuardia Airport (LGA), and Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) could be reduced by up to 10% this summer, according to Airline Weekly. American, United, Delta, and JetBlue’s schedules did not reflect the schedule changes earlier this week, but the carriers reportedly said they would make the changes after an FAA meeting on March 29th.
Maeve Walsh is the account manager for Corporate Ink, a marketing agency for global travel data provider OAG. Walsh said OAG’s experts have flagged the schedule cuts as a “cautious mindset” from airline CEOs, who have struggled with reliability amid a worsening labor shortage.
“New York City is one of the country’s largest flight markets, so widespread capacity changes have the potential to reverberate across New England – and will likely increase prices for what tickets are available.”
The cuts are needed
Last month, the FAA indicated that ATC staffing would be about 54% of the levels needed for the three New York City airports, while staffing on a national level would be 81%. According to the agency, flight cuts are desperately needed. If flight reductions were not to occur, around 45% of all flights departing from and arriving in the region could be delayed.
“We need to reduce flying and make sure we can operate what we’ve got,” said Robin Hayes, JetBlue CEO, to Airline Weekly last month.
American Airlines, the fourth largest carrier in the region, reportedly confirmed that flights would be reduced. From LGA and EWR, a spokesperson said that the airline would “temporarily reduce frequencies on select routes.”
The ATC shortage has lasted since the pandemic wreaked havoc in the airline industry. Executives at Atlanta-based Delta and Chiago-based United noted last summer that air traffic controllers experienced the most stress in aviation.
A Delta spokesperson said the airline is analyzing its network, according to Airline Weekly.
“Delta is reviewing our network to ensure the best customer experience throughout the summer travel season and we are committed to working with the FAA on measures to ensure the safety and efficiency of operations at the [New York/New Jersey] airports.”
The lengthy training process
The time it takes to hire and train new air traffic controllers contributes to the staffing issue, as new personnel spend about three years of training before being able to work. Additionally, the FAA suspended training during the pandemic, which has been part of the problem.
From May to September this year, Delta, United, and JetBlue will share 69% of all flights from JFK, LGA, and EWR, making the three carriers the largest airlines in the region by departures. With flights cut by 10%, New York City airports would see an overall decrease of 7%.
Source: Simple Flying