U.S. Airlines Are Reducing Summer Service at NYC, D.C. Airports — Here's Why

The Federal Aviation Administration is allowing airlines to cut back on service from New York and Washington D.C.-area airports ahead of the busy summer season amid a staffing shortage.

A Delta Airlines plane led by United Airlines and American lands at Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Virginia,

Eric Lee/Getty Images

The Federal Aviation Administration is allowing airlines to cut back on service from New York and Washington D.C.-area airports ahead of the busy summer season amid a staffing shortage, and several carriers are doing just that.

The FAA issued a notice last month giving airlines flexibility on airport slots at John F. Kennedy International Airport, LaGuardia Airport, and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, and asked carriers to “take actions minimizing impacts on passengers.” Airlines have until April 30 to decide if they want to cut slots.

Nationwide, the FAA has said two in 10 air traffic controller jobs are empty, CBS News New York reported.

“The FAA is taking several steps to keep air travel to and from New York City this summer safe and smooth, even as we see strong domestic demand and a return of pre-pandemic international traffic,” the administration wrote in a statement, adding, “Although the FAA continues to reduce the air traffic controller training backlog at many FAA air traffic facilities, staffing levels at the New York Terminal Radar Approach Control (N90) continue to be below targets.”

For its part, a United Airlines spokesperson told Travel + Leisure it would cut back on flights from all of the affected airports it flies from (United doesn’t fly out of JFK anymore), but added international flights would not be impacted.

“In support of the FAA’s efforts to reduce air traffic in the New York City area this summer, we’ve reduced some frequencies to our daily schedules at Newark, LaGuardia and Washington Reagan. In many cases, we’ll replace the frequencies with larger aircraft to minimize the disruption to our customers’ travel plans,” the spokesperson said in a statement provided to T+L. “These small reductions will affect less than 2% of our customers at these airports – most of whom will still reach their destinations within 2 hours of their planned arrival time.”

Similarly, a spokesperson for American Airlines told T+L the company would “temporarily reduce frequencies on select routes from LaGuardia Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport this summer” following the FAA’s slot waiver.

For its part, a spokesperson for Delta Air Lines told T+L the airline “commends the FAA for recognizing shared challenges that exist between the FAA, airports and airlines at New York and New Jersey airports, and for implementing a coordinated plan to improve operational reliability at these airports” but added the carrier was “reviewing our network to ensure the best customer experience throughout the summer travel season.”

JetBlue confirmed to T+L that the airline "began reviewing options for reducing our flight schedule at JFK and LaGuardia airports" and will share details upon having a finalized plan.

"While it is disappointing to reduce flights for customers as they plan their summer holidays and as New York City works to rebound from the pandemic, we are pleased the leadership team at the FAA is proactively working to get in front of this and is being transparent about the staffing shortages," a spokesperson said.

Beyond New York, Delta will cut flights to both La Crosse, WI, and State College, PA, starting June 5th.

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