Airlines and FAA clash over flight delays ahead of July 4th

Travelers wait to board a plane at Miami International Airport on April 22, 2022 in Miami, Florida.

Daniel Slim | AFP | Getty Images

Airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration are pointing fingers at each other over a rising rate of flight cancellations and delays as millions prepare for a July 4 travel weekend that officials expect will be among the busiest in three years.

On Friday, Airlines for America, which represents the country’s largest airlines including Delta, American, United and Southwest, requested another meeting with Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg to discuss air traffic controller staffing for the summer and other potential roadblocks such as space launches and military drills to discuss .

“The industry is actively and quickly doing everything it can to create a positive customer experience, as it is in an airline’s intrinsic interest to keep customers happy so they return for future business,” wrote Nick Calio, CEO of Airlines for America, in the letter.

Airlines have been struggling with staffing shortages after travel demand rebounded faster than they expected, despite government aid that barred them from laying off workers during the pandemic. Also, Covid-19 slowed down the training of air traffic controllers.

Both factors have made it difficult to cope with routine issues like spring and summer thunderstorms as Covid-19 infections continued to sideline staff and frustrate holiday-hungry travellers.

U.S. airlines have cut their June-August flight schedules by 15% compared to their original plans, Airlines for America said in the letter.

United announced on Thursday that it would ground 50 daily flights from its Newark Liberty International Airport hub in New Jersey starting next month to reduce congestion and delays there. Airlines Delta, JetBlue, Spirit and Frontier have also cut their flight schedules.

The FAA fired back at airlines for asking thousands of employees to take overs or furlough during the pandemic, despite federal aid.

“People, when they buy an airline ticket, expect to get where they need to go safely, efficiently, reliably and affordably,” the agency said in response to A4A’s letter. “After the American people received $54 billion in pandemic aid to save the airlines from mass layoffs and bankruptcy, the American people deserve to have their expectations met.”

The FAA said it has increased staff at a key Florida air traffic control center and added alternate routes to ease congestion.

Brett Snyder, founder of travel website Cranky Flier, said: “It’s hard to assign blame because everyone is to blame.”

“Because demand is so high, airlines are trying to fly as much as possible,” Snyder said. “People think airfares are high now, imagine the airlines were flying less.” Airlines and FAA clash over flight delays ahead of July 4th

Drew Weisholtz

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