Facing a shortage of air traffic controllers, the Federal Aviation Administration said Wednesday that it will let airlines continue to limit flights in the New York City area into October without penalties that they would normally face for such reductions.
Airlines that fail to use enough of their takeoff and landing rights or “slots” at those airports risk losing them to competitors.
The FAA said, however, it will extend current easing of those rules through Oct. 28 because the staffing shortage is beyond the control of the airlines. The waivers were set to expire Sept. 15, after the peak summer travel season.
Airlines including Delta, American, United and JetBlue had agreed to cuts at LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy airports in New York and Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey.
“The relief provided by the FAA during the peak of the summer season has provided stability at the NYC area airports,” the FAA said. The agency said canceled flights at the three big New York City-area airports from May 15 through June 30 fell 40% from the same period last year.
The FAA said airlines have reduced their New York flights this summer by 6%, but increased the number of seats by 2% by using larger planes on average.
The waiver of penalties also applies to some flights at Reagan Washington National Airport near Washington, D.C.
United Airlines, which has cut flights at its big hub in Newark, and trade group Airlines for America had asked FAA to extend the penalty waivers.
In a report to Congress this spring, the FAA detailed its efforts to hire and train about 3,000 new air traffic controllers. The agency is only half-staffed at a key facility that directs planes in and out of the New York City area.
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