On Tuesday, airline executives raised the alarm about travel disruptions caused by the ongoing air traffic controller shortage. Citing the 3000-person shortage of air traffic controllers that Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg mentioned earlier this year, they described the flight system as “suffering”.
Air Traffic Controller Shortage May Last For Years
According to airline industry executives, given the shortage, travel disruptions could last for at least the next five years.
Nick Calio of Airlines for America during the Global Aerospace Summit said, “It will take five to seven years (of hiring) to break even if all goes well.” He added, “Do we need five to seven years of further disruption on a daily basis? I don’t think so.”
According to Calio, even if the Federal Aviation Administration accelerates its hiring process by accepting the maximum number of controllers through its single certification academy, it is still “not going to be enough” to make significant changes needed by the airline industry.
To solve travel disruptions, Calio suggested letting universities with air traffic controller programs cater certificate courses, similar to how other countries do it. Another suggestion mentioned by Calio is for the FAA to lower flight levels at major New York-area airports again next summer. This region is currently dealing with the most severe air controller shortage problem.
During the spring, the FAA asked airlines to lower their summer flights at Newark, LaGuardia, and John F. Kennedy by 10%. And just last month, the FAA decided to extend this policy until October.
A 10% Reduction May Not Get the Job Done
JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes said that the FAA should give airlines with more advanced notice to facilitate the necessary adjustments at other airports. He also thinks that a 10% reduction in flights at New York’s busy airports won’t be enough.
For Hawaiian CEO Peter Ingram, better technology is a necessity to improve air traffic controller services. However, the agency needs to “staff for the technology we have today.”
United CEO Scott Kirby said, “The same weather that in the past we could have managed through now can cause hundreds of delays, or hundreds of even cancelations.”