Airlines say U.S. must ensure air traffic control can meet demand
WASHINGTON, June 14 (Reuters) - The U.S. airline industry told Congress the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) must take steps to ensure the nation's airspace can handle rising air travel demand, according to a letter obtained by Reuters on Tuesday.
Trade group Airlines for America (A4A) said in a previously unreported letter dated Friday that "airlines are aggressively pursuing several options to align schedules with workforce availability" but added "the FAA must also work to ensure that the air traffic control system is capable of meeting demand."
Last month, Democratic Senators Richard Blumenthal and Edward Markey asked (A4A, which represents American Airlines (AAL.O), Delta Air Lines (DAL.N), United Airlines (UAL.O) and others for answers after more than 2,700 Memorial Day weekend flights were canceled.
The senators said "while some flight cancellations are unavoidable, the sheer number of delays and cancellations this past weekend raises questions about airline decision-making."
Travelers are bracing for a difficult summer as airlines expect record demand and are still rebuilding staff after thousands of workers left the industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The FAA declined to comment on the letter, referring to a May statement, when it said it would boost authorized air traffic control staff at its Jacksonville, Florida, center after bad weather and space launches have snarled flights.
The airline group letter cited "FAA facility staffing challenges" and noted that impacted Florida, California and New York FAA operations.
The FAA noted that flight operations at many Florida airports has exceeded prepandemic levels and will meet with users of Florida airspace "throughout the summer."
"Airlines are aggressively pursuing several options to align schedules with workforce availability," A4A CEO Nick Calio wrote. "Air carriers are taking great care to reduce their summer flight schedules while also accelerating efforts to hire and train new employees to meet the strong resurgence in travel
The senators separately asked Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to detail steps his office was "taking to hold airlines accountable for serious disruptions and to ensure consumers are wholly and justly compensated.
In response to the A4A letter, Blumenthal and Markey released a joint statement.
"We’re deeply disappointed that the airline industry seeks to shrug off its responsibility for Memorial Day flight disruptions. Airlines must put consumers first, ensure full and fair compensation when delays and cancelations happen, and plan ahead of a busy summer travel season."
This article originally appeared on Reuters