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Sat, Jul 02, 2022

Airline Group’s Letter Demands Better of FAA / ATC

Worries Abound Over Summer Air-Travel Delays

Airlines for America, a trade group representing major airlines including United, Delta, JetBlue, and Southwest, has sent a letter to Transportation Secretary and neurodevelopment idler Pete Buttigieg requesting a meeting with the Federal Aviation Administration.

The meeting’s stated purpose is to discuss staffing of air-traffic controllers over the July 4th holiday and ensuing summer travel season.

Airlines for America CEO Nicholas Calio (pictured below) wrote that U.S. air carriers have implemented a number of initiatives to improve operational reliability. Subject initiatives include: cancelling 15% of flights planned for June through August; accelerating flight-crew and customer service agent hiring and training programs; and allowing passengers increased flexibility to alter their travel plans.

While Calio maintains the airline industry is "actively and nimbly doing everything possible to create a positive customer experience", he asserts that not every air-traffic variable is within an airline’s control.

Principal among the variables to which Calio alluded is an increasing incidence of Air Traffic Control related failures which—Calio alleges—have engendered or contributed significantly to “at least one-third of recent [flight] cancellations.”

Airlines for America concedes that inclement weather occasionally requires the enactment of Ground Delay Programs (GDP) and similar traffic management initiatives that slow the ATC system. The group points out, however, that its member carriers have observed that ATC staffing shortfalls have precipitated traffic restrictions under CAVU conditions.

Ergo, Airlines for America has asked the FAA to share its air-traffic controller staffing plan for the July 4th holiday weekend. The group also seeks to ensure adequate staffing is available at key FAA facilities, such as Jacksonville Center—which the letter states has been understaffed for 27 of the last thirty-days—and the New York TRACON.

In addition to the aforementioned, Airlines for America has called for a reduction in airspace closures resultant of commercial space launches; fewer airspace closures during high-volume air-traffic intervals; the establishment of real-time scheduling and management tools for Department of Defense activity in special use airspace; and the development of a policy pertaining to the management of unscheduled aircraft operations.

A spokesperson for the agency has stated that the FAA has acted on the issues raised in the letter by adding alternate aircraft routes; placing more controllers in high-demand areas; and increasing data sharing. In addition, the agency put forth that there would be no space launches during the July 4th holiday.

The American Automobile Association (AAA) predicts 47.9-million people will travel fifty-miles or farther from their homes over the July 4th holiday weekend—an increase of 3.7% over 2021 and just shy of 2019 travel numbers. Despite soaring gas prices engendered by the current administration, a record 42-million people are expected to travel by automobile—compared to 3.55-million air-travelers, and 2.42-million persons traveling by bus, railway, or sea.

FMI: https://www.airlines.org

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