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FAA, in unusual move, warns of delays in New York due to staffing issues

Aug. 15, 2022
3 min read
FAA, in unusual move, warns of delays in New York due to staffing issues
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New York City basked under sunny skies Monday amid unusually mild August weather. But, if you're flying to or from New York City this evening, prepare for delays.

The Federal Aviation Administration, in an unusual move, is proactively warning travelers about delays because of what’s becoming an increasing common pandemic-era problem: staffing issues, which the agency warned could lead to delays of up to two hours Monday evening:

Due to the availability of staff tonight, the FAA must reduce the flow of aircraft in certain airspace serving New York City to maintain safety. Departure and arrival delays this evening could approach two hours at John F. Kennedy International, New York LaGuardia and Newark Liberty International airports. Passengers should prepare for delays, and monitor fly.faa.gov for updates. Please check with your airline for information about specific flights.

While these types of delays are not unusual in and around New York, they're often due to severe weather in the summer that can close off certain arrival and departure routes in what is already the nation's most congested airspace.

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As of 6 p.m. ET on Monday evening, LaGuardia Airport (LGA) was in a ground stop for certain flights due to staffing. A ground stop means that flights that are destinated for the airport are being held at their origin airport as a means of spacing traffic out. LaGuardia was also under a ground delay program, where traffic is slowed, as was Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR).

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By 8:15 p.m., there was more staffing present, the FAA said, and some of the delay programs were canceled.

The staffing issue is at a facility called the New York Air Route Traffic Control Center in Ronkonkama, New York, on Long Island, the FAA said. That facility, known by its identifier, ZNY, is an en-route facility that controls some traffic arriving to and departing from New York City's airports, particularly on the western side of the metropolitan area.

The FAA has aggressively pushed back on criticism from airline leaders and other stakeholders that the air traffic control system is understaffed, even responding to a staff memo from former United Airlines chief operating officer Jon Roitman about delays around Newark. In some other circumstances, the agency has acknowledged staffing issues, particularly with another enroute facility near Jacksonville, Florida.

More: FAA pledges to work with airlines to fix Florida’s air traffic delays

A source familiar with the FAA's thinking about Monday's statement said that it's part of an overall effort to be more transparent with the public.

"The agency has taken a much more aggressive posture this summer: producing daily air traffic outlook videos and releasing scores of data to the public," the source said. "It’s all part of an effort to be transparent with the public and overtake what the agency argues is unfair shifting of blame by the airlines."

Featured image by Bloomberg via Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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