Airlines were given the green light to continue flying reduced schedules at major New York City and Washington-area airports through the fall without facing any penalties.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a notice Wednesday allowing airlines to continue operating slimmer schedules at John F. Kennedy International Airport and LaGuardia Airport in New York and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Washington through Oct. 28 due to air traffic controller staffing issues.
Earlier this year, the FAA issued a waiver that allowed airlines to pare back schedules without losing out on competitive time slots through Sept. 15. Typically, airlines that fail to use enough of their takeoff and landing rights or “slots” at those airports risk losing them to competitors.
The federal agency extended the waiver given that the staffing shortage is out of the airlines’ control.
The notice comes after United Airlines and Airlines for America, the trade group for major U.S. carriers, urged the federal government to extend the deadline.
“Carriers will be permitted to voluntarily turn in up to 10 percent of their slots held,” at the aforementioned airports, the FAA said, adding that carriers will also be able to reduce their slots by 10% at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, too.
Airlines including Delta, American, United and JetBlue had agreed to cuts at LaGuardia, JFK and Newark.
The FAA said the waiver provided some ease during the peak travel season and even reduced cancellations at the three major New York City-area airports from May 15 through June 30 by 40% compared with the same period last year.
Currently, staffing at a key New York air traffic control facility is only 50% of where it needs to be. However, in a report to Congress this spring, the FAA detailed its efforts to hire and train about 3,000 new air traffic controllers.
In the meantime, the agency said it expects airlines to operate larger aircraft to transport more passengers and to “make sure passengers are fully informed about any possible disruptions.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.