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New York Airport Slot Waiver Stretched as ATC Shortages Persist

The waiver has been extended until October 28, giving airlines operating out of JFK, Newark, and LaGuardia more time to find solutions to the staff shortage

by Fergus Cole

August 14, 2023

Photo: Courtesy of Washington-Reagan National Airport.

The slot waiver currently in place at airports in the New York City area has been extended until October 28 due to ongoing air traffic controller shortages, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has confirmed.

The FAA first agreed to give airlines slot waivers in NYC-area airports in March following a request from Delta Air Lines and United Airlines to temporarily return up to 10% of their slots and flights without losing their rights to the slots.

The request was made in response to surging demand for air travel following the easing of pandemic restrictions, while at the same time, New York City’s three major airports were struggling with a shortage of air traffic control staff.

Photo: New York-LaGuardia Airport. Courtesy of Mohit Kumar / Unsplash

The initial waiver was applied at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), LaGuardia Airport (LGA), and Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), as well as Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) and was scheduled to run until September 15. But as the summer travel season is in full swing, and airports in the region continue to be hampered by a shortage of air traffic control staff, the waiver has been extended until the end of October.

“The relief provided by the FAA during the peak of the summer season has provided stability at the NYC area airports,” said the FAA in a statement. “During the period of May 15 through June 30, 2023, the total number of scheduled operations at JFK, LGA, and EWR, compared to the same period in 2022, was up about one (1) percent while cancellations were down about 40 percent, and Ground Delay Programs (GDPs) and Ground Stops (GSs), were down 20 percent.”

“As FAA efforts will not be completed in time to address the near-term anticipated operational impacts in the remainder of the summer 2023 scheduling season, the FAA plans to extend the existing relief until October 28, 2023.”

Photo: New York JFK Airport. Courtesy of Miguel Ángel Sanz / Unsplash

The decision comes after multiple airlines requested an extension on Monday, claiming that air traffic controller numbers in the New York area had not “meaningfully improved,” while United Airlines had first requested an extension back in June. Without the waivers in place, airlines could lose their take-off and landing slots at busy airports if they don’t use them at least 80% of the time.

Following a government audit in June, it was claimed that the New York Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) had just 54% of the staff required for optimal operations.

But although the waiver has been extended for now, the FAA told carriers to only expect further extension beyond October 28. Instead, it told airlines to use larger aircraft to keep up with passenger demand.