A daylong disruption to flights to and from the Greater New York area is raising concerns about how prepared airlines are for the Fourth of July holiday, a weekend that is expected to bring a record number of air travelers.
More than four million Americans are expected to fly this holiday period, according to AAA, The automobile owners group is almost 11 per cent higher than the previous year and almost 6 per cent higher than the record set in 2019. The busiest day of this period will be Thursday with 52,564 flights. federal aviation administration Said.
But as travelers prepared for a busy holiday weekend, airlines tried to blame the FAA for at least some of the hundreds of thousands of flight delays and thousands of canceled flights across the country this week that crippled the nation’s air traffic. drives the control system.
Here’s what travelers need to know.
What is the situation at the airports in the Northeast?
Travel at New York’s airports, especially Newark, has been disrupted over the weekend, with many travelers reporting long flight delays and difficulty rebooking canceled flights. In some cases, travelers reported sleeping at airports and waiting in lines or on the phone for hours to reach customer service agents.
a passenger said on twitter A connecting flight operated by United Airlines and departing Newark Airport over the weekend was delayed for about 15 hours after passengers were “offloaded” from the plane after midnight. The passenger’s family slept on cots in the terminal.
FAA spokesman Chris Citrola said the storm is in the “perfect location” on the East Coast to break contact with the busy markets of New York and Florida. said in a video posted online,
“What happens is a domino effect of issues,” he said. All the problems start happening.”
Which airlines are most affected? who is to blame?
More than 30 percent of the nearly 4,500 flights canceled nationwide on Monday and Tuesday were operated by United, according to flight tracking firm FlightAware. Other airlines that reported substantial cancellations included JetBlue Airways, Endeavor Air, a subsidiary of Delta Air Lines, and Republic Airways, which flies for Delta, United and American Airlines.
As of Wednesday afternoon, United, which maintains a hub at Newark Liberty International Airport, had canceled about 15 percent of the nationwide flights planned for that day, according to FlightAware. Endeavor had canceled about 12 percent of its flights, while JetBlue canceled about 9 percent and Republic about 8 percent.
United and JetBlue blame weather as well as FAA for problems
In a statement on Wednesday, United said air traffic staff shortages over the weekend had contributed to a “difficult operating environment”. The blame echoes what United chief executive Scott Kirby told employees in a memo earlier this week, saying “the FAA has clearly failed us this weekend.” JetBlue said in a statement that it struggled to maintain its flight schedule after air traffic control limited travel for all airlines in and out of New York airports.
What’s Really Happening With FAA Staffing?
The FAA said there were no problems with air traffic control staff on the East Coast on Monday or Tuesday. In a statement, the agency said it would “always cooperate with anyone willing to join us to solve a problem.”
Yet air traffic control has long been short of staff, and controllers at many facilities often work six days a week to make up for those shortfalls.
one in Report published last weekThe Department of Transportation found that most of the 26 critical air traffic control facilities it identified had a shortfall of 15 percent or more by March 2022. One of those facilities, New York Terminal Radar Approach Control, which oversees some of the nation’s most complex and challenging airspace, employed only 54 percent of its target number of controllers.
The report says the problem has persisted for years, as United’s Mr Kirby also noted on Monday.
He said in his staff memo, “It is not the fault of the current FAA leadership that they are in this severely understaffed state – it has been building long before they were in charge.”
There is a staffing problem even at the top level of the FAA. Its last permanent administrator stepped down in March 2022 and the agency is currently being led by its second temporary administrator.
What is the solution for passengers with delayed or canceled flights?
Most US carriers compensate passengers when a flight delay or cancellation is due to a factor within the airline’s control, such as maintenance problems or flight crew shortages. Bad weather and FAA staffing generally do not qualify.
But when the airline is at fault, major carrier Rebook passengers on the same airline at no additional cost, and provide meals or meal vouchers when passengers have to wait three hours or more.
To deal with potential disruptions, travelers should download and monitor airline apps, consider purchasing travel insurance — which usually covers flight delays — and change flights to depart in the morning, if possible.
In the event of mass delays or cancellations, there will likely be longer wait times for customer service agents. Instead, passengers can call an airline’s overseas hotline, which will typically see a portion of callers, said Scott Keyes, founder of the airline. Going.comA travel-deal website.
Could this holiday weekend be a repeat of last summer?
“It’s going to be a very busy weekend and there is the potential for disruption,” said Mike Arnott, a spokesman for aviation analytics firm Cerium. He said the intense heat in the south and smoky skies from Canadian wildfires could also be a reason for the delay.
But Mr Keys of Going.com said he hoped this summer would be better than last year, which he called a “debacle”.
He’s not the only one to use that term. From June to August last year, more than 22 percent of all flights were delayed and about 2 percent were canceled. Transport Department figures show,
To help avoid recurrence and reduce pressure on air traffic control, the FAA has relaxed rules at some airports to encourage airlines to operate fewer flights with larger aircraft. It also opened 169 new routes to reduce congestion. Airlines hired more staff members, chose to use larger aircraft, and began monitoring more closely for early signs of problems.
These steps may be working. According to FlightAware, less than 1 percent of the more than 100,000 flights scheduled for Memorial Day weekend were canceled this year.