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Airlines & FAA Clash Over Flight Delays Ahead Of 4 July Crunch

As the Fourth of July busy weekend approaches, United States-based airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are pointing fingers at each other for the continuous high-level cancellations and delays.

Existing concerns

Earlier this month, Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.) wrote to Airlines for America, representing US's largest airlines, including Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, United Airlines, and Southwest Airlines, questioning about Memorial Day weekend travel chaos as over 3,000 flights canceled or delayed last month.

Continuous discussions between industry and regulator

On Thursday, June 16th, Airlines for America and US. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg exchanged opinions during a call. Secretary Buttigieg urged airline CEOs during the call to follow their schedules reliably this summer after a rise in delays and cancellations this year. According to a CNBC report, the secretary also asked airlines what they would do to avoid what happened on Memorial Day weekend weren't occur again during July Fourth weekend and the rest of the summer.

After the call, Airlines of America officially sent a letter to Secretary Pete Buttigiegon June 24th last Friday, requesting a meeting to discuss how the airline community and regulator can work together to understand the current obstacles better—also aiming to find a solution for the upcoming July 4th weekend and summer travel season.

Nick Calio, Airlines for America President and CEO, said in an earlier statement.

"We appreciated the opportunity to meet with Department of Transportation Secretary Buttigieg to discuss our shared commitment to prioritizing the safety and security of all travelers as they reunite with friends, family and colleagues this summer."

In airlines' defense, Calio also mentioned in the letter to Secretary Buttigieg,

"The industry is actively and nimbly doing everything possible to create a positive customer experience since it is in an airline's inherent interest to keep customers happy, so they return for future business."

Airlines for America also mentioned in the letter that US airlines had reduced their June-August schedules by 15% compared with their original plans. The airlines also have accelerated hiring and training programs in all areas, like flight crew, customer service agents and airport staff.

ATC woes

In the letter, Airlines for America also pointed out that the FAA air traffic control (ATC) staffing shortage has directly "crippled the entire east coast traffic flows." One ATC, Jacksonville Center (JAX), has been understaffed for 27 of the last 30 days.

The FAA said in early May that it would "immediately" increase staffing at a major air traffic control center in Florida. The agency said in a statement.

"Because representatives said Florida operations will continue increasing past 2019 levels, the FAA will immediately increase the number of authorized staff at Jacksonville Center and evaluate other Florida facilities,"

In response to the Airlines for America letter, the FAA shot back, referencing taxpayer money that airlines received after the pandemic devastated air travel.

"People expect when they buy an airline ticket that they'll get where they need to go safely, efficiently, reliably and affordably. After receiving $54 billion in pandemic relief to help save the airlines from mass layoffs and bankruptcy, the American people deserve to have their expectations met."

This article originally appeared on Simple Flying

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