JetBlue cuts flights to New York because of FAA workers shortages

A JetBlue Airways Corp. aircraft. prepares to land at LaGuardia Airport in New York, the United States, on Tuesday, April 18, 2017.

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JetBlue Airways is preparing to cut numerous weekly flights in the New York City area this spring and summer in response to air traffic controller shortages, a measure that will have a financial impact on the airline, CEO Robin Hayes told CNBC on Wednesday.

Last week, the Federal Aviation Administration unveiled a new plan to avoid a repeat of flight disruptions in 2022 and reduce airline takeoff and landing rights flight requirements by up to 10% to ease congestion in the New York City and Washington area , DC to avoid The FAA named their staff shortage. The exemptions apply from May 15th to September 15th.

“We don’t want to cancel flights. I’m sure no airline wants to cancel flights,” Hayes said in an interview with CNBC ahead of an event at the Economic Club of New York. “But if we don’t cut them, the system won’t work this summer.”

Staff shortages and possible schedule cuts in the region highlight airlines’ struggles to increase capacity as travel demand returns from a pandemic lull.

Flight cancellations and delays increased during the peak periods of 2022, and airlines then reduced flight schedules to create more wiggle room in the system. Disruptions are common due to bad weather or other challenges when airlines have overloaded their schedules with too many flights.

JetBlue Airways Corp. Chief Executive Officer Robin Hayes speaks during an event hosted by the Economic Club of New York in New York, USA on Wednesday, March 29, 2023.

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Hayes said the latest move is particularly impactful for JetBlue, which is based in New York City, as the vast majority of its flights depart from, land in, or transit through the city’s airspace.

“We’re staffed, we’ve already trained pilots, we pay for pilots, we bought planes, we pay for gates and slots,” Hayes said. “This will have a significant financial impact on JetBlue and our customers.”

Delta Airlines asked the FAA to return up to 10% of the airline’s slots, or operating hours, at the three major airports serving New York City and Washington Reagan National Airport for the period. United Airlines made a similar request.

Airlines have until April 30 to apply for the exemption.

“The [air traffic controller] Staffing issues have been around for years,” Hayes said. The airline has not yet requested any slot or operating time waivers, but Hayes said the airline plans to do so and will notify customers as soon as possible.

On Wednesday, the FAA held a meeting with airline executives about measures to reduce congestion in the New York area. It held similar talks last year about busy Florida airspace and agreed to increase staff to cope with the surge in traffic there.

“Operators have early and often requested cooperation and communications with the FAA to anticipate circumstances that could cause delays, including weather events, space launches and military operations,” the FAA said in a statement. “They discussed how closer collaboration and frequent air traffic updates would help them plan crews more effectively.”

Attendees also discussed alternative flight routes, such as overwater routes, the FAA said.

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