FAA Reduces Minimum Flight Requirements at New York Airports Until Late 2024

The U.S. government has announced that it will extend cuts to minimum flight requirements at congested New York City-area airports through October 2024 due to shortages in air traffic controller staffing. This decision aims to provide relief to airlines that have faced delays resulting from staffing issues. If airlines do not use their takeoff and landing slots at congested airports at least 80% of the time, they can lose them under minimum flight requirements. 


However, the waiver allows airlines to retain their slots even if they do not fly some flights. The FAA has stated that the number of certified controllers at the New York Terminal Radar Approach Control (N90) is insufficient to handle normal traffic levels, and it continues to work on finding a long-term solution to address the chronic low levels of fully certified air traffic controllers at N90. Airlines for America, an industry group, has expressed appreciation for the latest waiver extension as the FAA continues to navigate air traffic controller staffing shortages. U.S. airlines will continue to operate larger aircraft to help alleviate the pressure. 


U.S. airlines have expressed growing frustration with air traffic control (ATC) shortages, which have led to flight delays. In August, the FAA extended temporary cuts to minimum flight requirements at congested New York City-area airports and Washington National Airport through Oct. 28 due to staffing shortages. This came after Delta Air Lines and United Airlines sought permission not to fly up to 10% of flights. JetBlue Airways CEO Robin Hayes has stated that the system cannot cope with the number of flights today, and airlines received an initial waiver for flights in March quite late. Therefore, they need to get ahead of this issue. Due to air traffic shortages, airlines have voluntarily cut flights during a record-setting U.S. summer travel season. However, they want to add more flights to address demand. 

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The FAA has met its yearly goal of hiring 1,500 controllers but is still around 3,000 controllers behind staffing targets. A government watchdog report in June revealed that critical ATC facilities face significant staffing challenges, posing risks to air traffic operations. During the summer of 2022, there were 41,498 flights from New York airports that experienced delays due to ATC staffing issues. The report also highlighted that N90 staffing was at just 54%. The United States has experienced several near-miss aviation incidents this year, including some involving apparent controller mistakes that could have been catastrophic. The FAA currently has 10,700 certified controllers, which is slightly up from 10,578 in 2022, virtually the same as 2021, and down 10% from 2012. To cover shortages, controllers work mandatory overtime and six-day work weeks at several facilities.

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