A passenger walks past a Delta Airlines plane at a gate at Logan International Airport in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., January 3, 2022.
A passenger walks past a Delta Airlines plane at a gate at Logan International Airport in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., January 3, 2022. Reuters / BRIAN SNYDER

An airline industry trade group on Friday said the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) must insure adequate air traffic control (ATC) staffing issues in the face of rising summer delays.

Airlines for America, a trade group, told U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in a letter that ATC staffing challenges are disrupting flights - even in good weather. The group noted that the Jacksonville Air Route Traffic Control Center in Florida had been "understaffed for 27 of the last 30 days, which is crippling to the entire east coast traffic flows."

Travelers are already facing a difficult summer as airlines expect record demand and as they rebuild staff levels after thousands of workers left the industry during the COVID-19 pandemic. As of early afternoon on Friday, airlines had cancelled 525 flights and delayed more than 1,800.

Airlines for America sought a meeting with transportation officials "to discuss how we can work together to better understand FAA's controller staffing plan for the upcoming July 4th weekend and summer travel season."

The U.S. Department of Transportation and the FAA did not immediately comment.

The FAA said in early May it would boost air traffic control staff in Florida after bad weather and space launches had often snarled flights in recent months.

Last week, Buttigieg called the chief executives of major U.S airlines to a virtual meeting to discuss thousands of recent flight cancellations and delays over the Memorial Day holiday weekend. He urged airlines to ensure they can reliably operate planned summer schedules.

Airlines for America said in its Friday letter, which it released publicly, that carriers "pulled down 15% of summer (June-August) flights relative to what they had planned for at the outset of 2022."

The letter said one carrier estimated ATC-related issues "were a factor in at least one-third of recent cancellations." The group said ATC "staffing challenges have led to traffic restrictions under blue sky conditions."

The letter also said it was "imperative" to ensure adequate staffing at New York Terminal Radar Approach Control. It urged the FAA "to share its staffing plan with airlines" for the July 4 holiday period and to schedule space launch airspace closures "to avoid high-volume air traffic times."

On Thursday, USDOT said U.S. consumers lodged more than quadruple the number of complaints against U.S. airlines in April compared with pre-pandemic levels as on-time arrivals fell below 2019 levels.


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