WASHINGTON D.C.: To address summer airport congestion and low air traffic controller staffing levels, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it will temporarily cut minimum flight requirements for airlines at New York City-area airports and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.
The FAA's move is in response to a request from Delta and United Airlines to temporarily return up to 10 percent of slots and flights at New York airports and National, on condition that they are not filled by other carriers.
As airlines are struggling to meet the recovery in demand after the end of COVID-19 restrictions, Americans could face another difficult summer of air travel.
"The decision will give airlines the ability to reduce operations during the peak summer travel period, which are likely to be exacerbated by the effects of Air Traffic Controller staffing shortfalls," the FAA said.
But airlines could lose their slots at congested airports if they do not use them at least 80 percent of the time, it added.
Airlines must act to minimize impacts on passengers, including operating larger aircraft and ensuring passengers are informed about any possible disruptions, the FAA stressed.
In a letter to the FAA, Delta officials said, "It is imperative that aviation stakeholders work collaboratively with the FAA to take proactive measures. We are prepared to do our part."
Airlines for America, a trade group representing major US airlines, lauded the FAA's decision, stating that airlines "have been making every effort, including hiring at a rapid pace and reducing schedules, to prioritize smooth operations."
Airlines have already cut about 10 percent of scheduled flights this spring to address performance issues, it added.