Airlines are cutting summer schedules at New York-area and D.C. airports

Several U.S. carriers are cutting spring and summer flights on New York and Washington, D.C. routes at least in part to try to avoid the congestion and delays the airlines experienced last summer, several carriers confirmed. 

The moves come after the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration granted carriers scheduling flexibility in those cities. 

The FAA on March 22 announced it would give airlines flexibility on the slot usage requirements it has in place at New York’s John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia airports as well as at Reagan Washington National Airport because of air traffic controller staffing shortages. 

As of April 3, American Airlines had removed 4,790 flights to or from JFK, LaGuardia and Reagan National, as well as Newark Liberty International Airport, from its May 1 to Sept. 30 schedule compared with what was filed on Feb. 3, 2023, according to data from Cirium. 

United Airlines was close behind at 4,353 flights cut, while JetBlue so far had trimmed 3,565 flights. Delta had cut 1,983 so far. Southwest had not made any reductions to its schedule as of April 3.

“In response to the FAA’s slot waiver, American will temporarily reduce frequencies on select routes from LaGuardia and Newark Liberty International Airport this summer,” according to an AA statement. “We’re proactively reaching out to affected customers to offer alternate travel arrangements.”

American, Delta and United also on March 22 each sent the FAA letters in support of the summer 2023 slot waivers, provided no other airlines are allowed their slots. Delta and United requested that the FAA grant limited, conditional waivers for up to 10% of their slots at JFK, LaGuardia and Reagan National — the latter only for flights to and from the New York area.

Delta and United also asked the FAA to approve voluntarily returned operating times at Newark for the peak summer season of May 15 to Sept. 15.

Carriers have until April 30 to specify their plans for the slots for which they seek waivers, according to the FAA.

The waiver is “to keep air travel to and from New York City safe and smooth,” according to the FAA. And while the agency indicated it encouraged carriers to take such actions as flying larger aircraft to minimize the effects of any canceled flights on passengers, the waiver “is being provided to give carriers the ability to reduce operations during the peak summer travel period.” And it appears American, Delta, United and JetBlue are doing just that.

Based on the Cirium data for May through September, the largest changes filed by American were the removal of 340 flights from LaGuardia to Dallas, 332 from LaGuardia to Chicago O’Hare, 273 from Newark to Charlotte, and 254 from Newark to O’Hare. 

Additional routes with reductions include flights between LaGuardia and Reagan National, as well as flights from LaGuardia to Columbus, Ohio; Miami; and St. Louis. 

JetBlue said that after the FAA announcement, it began reviewing options for reducing its flight schedule at JFK and LaGuardia, and that “we’ll share specific details on our schedule reduction once we have finalized our plan,” according to a statement. “While it is disappointing to reduce flights for customers as they plan their summer holidays and as New York City works to rebound from the pandemic, we are pleased the leadership team at the FAA is proactively working to get in front of this and is being transparent about the staffing shortages.”

JetBlue for the period reviewed by Cirium so far had updated its schedule with flight reductions on several routes: 524 fewer flights from JFK to Boston, 219 fewer from JFK to Buffalo, N.Y., 216 fewer from JFK to Los Angeles, and 214 fewer from JFK to Miami. 

Delta also noted it is reviewing its network “to ensure the best customer experience throughout the summer travel season, and we are committed to working with the FAA on measures to ensure the safety and efficiency of operations at the NY/NJ airports,” it said in a statement. It did not specify whether cuts were already made, and United did not immediately respond to a request for comment, yet each carrier has made reductions for the May through September period. 

Delta has trimmed 362 flights from LaGuardia to Dulles, 220 from LaGuardia to University Park Airport in Centre County, Penn., 131 from LaGuardia to Reagan National, 122 from Reagan National to LaGuardia, 121 from Newark to Boston, and 119 from JFK to Bangor, Maine.

United has cut 293 roundtrip flights between Newark and Reagan National, 393 from Newark to Miami, 294 from Newark to Fort Lauderdale, and 223 from Newark to Orlando. Additional affected routes include Newark to each Palm Beach, Tampa, Dulles, San Francisco and Pittsburgh.

Airlines make broader schedule changes

The cuts allowed by the FAA waiver are just part of the reductions in schedules the carriers have enacted for this spring and summer, due to reasons including pilot shortages, aircraft delivery delays and the desire to provide a reliable operation with demand still high in order to avoid the disruptions that occurred at the beginning of last summer. 

It was reported in February that American had cut nearly 50,000 flights from its summer schedule, in March that American and United were reducing their schedules for the season, and also in March that Delta had trimmed more than 6,000 summer flights.

Cirium at BTN’s request provided May 1-Sept. 30 flight data comparing schedules filed as of April 3 versus those previously filed as of Feb. 3. American had shown 85,069 reduced flights, United had 28,081, Delta had 16,459 and JetBlue had 11,215. 

These figures are just the reductions. Each carrier also has made additions to their flight schedules during this period, but all four airlines showed a net decline in the number of flights scheduled as of April 3 versus what was filed on Feb. 3.

Regarding the reported 6,000 reductions for Delta, the carrier responded that “this is a routine adjustment to the regional flying and represents a very small reduction over a period of four months, equating to a 1.5% reduction in flights week over week,” according to a statement. “We’ll continue to take a strategic and measured approach to rebuilding our network, matching our offering with demand.”

For American, “these adjustments are in line with our approach to our network and schedule planning throughout the year,” according to an AA statement. “A placeholder schedule is published 331 days in advance and then adjustments are made closer in based on the schedule we intend to operate. We are now publishing our final schedule approximately 100 days in advance, which is in line with how we adjusted our schedule in 2019 prior to the pandemic.” 

Under American’s timeline, its schedule for the last half of August and September has yet to be finalized, so additional flights still could be removed or added.

The same, of course, could be said for all carriers. Also, reductions in flights don’t necessarily mean reductions in capacity, as carriers could upgauge remaining flights to larger aircraft with more seats. Carriers could further address summer schedule plans this month when detailing first-quarter earnings, beginning with Delta on April 13. 

Source: Business Travel News

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