Fri, 01 Dec 2023

WASHINGTON D.C.: U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has criticized the air traffic control staffing shortages in New York as "unacceptable" and pledged to address the issue by boosting hiring efforts.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently announced an extension of cuts to minimum flight requirements at congested airports in the New York City area until October 2024 due to staffing shortages. The New York Terminal Radar Approach Control (N90) currently operates with only 54 percent of the recommended staffing levels.

Under minimum flight requirements, airlines risk losing their takeoff and landing slots at congested airports if they do not use them at least 80 percent of the time. The waiver allows airlines to retain slots even if they do not operate some flights.

Speaking at a U.S. House hearing on the New York staffing shortage, Buttigieg emphasized the need for a swift resolution. He pointed out that the current staffing levels in air traffic control are placing considerable pressure on employees and affecting smooth operations.

The FAA's recent statement noted that the number of controllers in New York is still insufficient to handle normal traffic levels. In the summer of 2022, controller staffing issues contributed to delays in 41,498 flights from New York airports.

U.S. airlines have expressed growing frustration over air traffic staff shortages. In August, the FAA extended temporary cuts to minimum flight requirements through October 28, following initial waivers granted in March at the request of Delta Air Lines and United Airlines to reduce flights by up to 10 percent.

Despite meeting its goal of hiring 1,500 controllers in the past year, the FAA still needs to meet staffing targets by around 3,000 controllers. A government watchdog report from June highlighted significant staffing challenges at critical air traffic facilities, posing risks to air traffic operations.

As of August, the FAA had 10,700 certified controllers, slightly increasing from 10,578 in 2022 but down by 10 percent from 2012.

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