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United will cut some New York-area, D.C. flights after US waiver

2023-04-06T22:59:41Z

A United Airlines Boeing 737-900ER plane takes off from Los Angeles International airport (LAX) in Los Angeles, California, U.S. March 28, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake

United Airlines (UAL.O) said Thursday it will reduce summer flights at three New York and Washington area airports after the Federal Aviation Administration allowed carriers to do so due to an air traffic controller shortage.

Starting in May, United is reducing daily departures from Newark Liberty International Airport to 408 from 438 on peak summer travel days. Daily flights between Newark and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport will drop to 10 from 18.

Daily departures from New York LaGuardia Airport to Washington Dulles International Airport will decrease to six from nine. In many cases, United will fly larger aircraft to minimize disruption to passengers.

United could cut more flights beginning in June.

Air travelers could face another rough summer as carriers struggle to meet burgeoning flight demands after the pandemic.

In March, the FAA agreed to requests by Delta Air Lines (DAL.N) and United to temporarily return up to 10% of slots and flight timings at congested New York John F. Kennedy International Airport, LaGuardia, Newark and Washington National airports, citing air traffic controller shortages for flights from May 15 to Sept. 15.

The carriers agreed to cuts on the condition they not be backfilled. Airlines can lose slots at congested airports if they do not use them at least 80% of the time.

Despite the cuts, Chicago-based United will still fly 5% more seats out of the affected airports than in the summer of 2019, it said. Reductions will impact less than 2% of customers there.

American Airlines (AAL.O) said Monday it would join other major carriers in temporarily cutting some New York City area flights.

The FAA said it is giving 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.”

Airlines have already cut about 10% of scheduled flights this spring to address performance issues, said trade group Airlines for America.

The FAA said staffing at the New York Terminal Radar Approach Control remains below targets. Last summer air traffic control staffing was a factor in delays of 41,498 flights from New York airports, the FAA disclosed in March.

The FAA will reassign about 100 square miles (259 square kilometers)
of Newark airspace to the Philadelphia Terminal Radar Approach Control later this year to address staffing issues.

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