New York passengers faced a night of misery Monday when the Federal Aviation Authority announced major delays at airports across the region due to a shortage of air traffic controllers.
As of 6 p.m. Eastern Time, LaGuardia airport was the hardest hit, with a “ground stop” being implemented for some air traffic control zones — meaning flights destined for the airport were not allowed to take off.
Newark and JFK also experienced delays.
Three hours later the ground stops were lifted, but much damage was done.
A woman tweeted a photo of an empty gate at JFK and demanded information from airport staff.
‘@JetBlue, what the hell is this?!’ she said.
‘2.5 hours & counting, & now even the desk clerk at the gate has let us down.
‘Still no explanation of what’s happening with 1719 JFK to Atlanta?! I just ordered your credit card because I thought I’d go to JetBlue often and I’m so sorry!’
Another man tweeted, “Well. My flight has been cancelled. Sat at JFK Terminal before someone at the airport told me it’s cancelled. I just got an email from LOT. Reschedule your flight to tomorrow.’
A passenger, who was from Denver, complained that he had to wait an hour on the tarmac near Newark Monday night before disembarking.
Another described the airspace off New York as “a black hole,” while another blamed the relaxed COVID rules, which increased the spread of the virus among staff.
A spokesman for the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) confirmed to DailyMail.com that the delay was due to staff shortages.
A traveler at JFK airport on Monday night as flights were canceled due to lack of air traffic controllers
Passengers are seen at JFK on Monday night amid lengthy delays
Flight Aware’s ‘Misery Map’ showed problems in the New York area. Denver also has problems on Monday nights, but their problems are due to the weather
The National Airspace System Status dashboard showed the problem lay with air traffic controllers in the New York (ZNY) sector, with the cause of the problem confirmed in the comments section
The New York region – ZNY – can be seen on the air traffic control map
The National Airspace System Status dashboard revealed that the problem lay with the air traffic controllers in the New York (ZNY) sector, who wrote, “COMMENT: STOP IS FOR ZNY STAFFING.”
“Due to staff availability tonight, the FAA must reduce the flow of aircraft in certain airspace serving New York City to maintain security,” said Tony Molinaro, FAA spokesman.
Departure and arrival delays could reach up to two hours tonight at John F. Kennedy International, New York LaGuardia and Newark Liberty International airports.
“Passengers should prepare for delays and watch for updates. Please contact your airline for information on specific flights.’
The FAA tweeted: “Due to the unexpected availability of personnel tonight, the FAA must reduce the flow of aircraft around New York City to maintain safety.
Evening delays can be 2 hours at @JFKairport, @LGAairport & @EWRairport.
“Check for updates and with your airline for flight information.”
It was unclear what specifically caused the New York staff shortage on Monday.
The New York Air Route Traffic Control Center, known by the initials ZNY, is pictured in Ronkonkoma, Long Island
One of the control towers at LaGuardia Airport is pictured, as the airport is experiencing delays
Airlines for America, a lobbying group, told DailyMail.com they could not comment on the circumstances of Monday’s staff shortage in the New York area.
But in June, the industry association Pete Buttigieg, the transportation secretary, told in a letter that staffing problems are disrupting flights, even in good weather.
They said on June 24 that the Jacksonville Air Route Traffic Control Center in Florida was “understaffed 27 out of the past 30 days, which is crippling the entire traffic flow on the East Coast.”
Travelers have endured a difficult summer amid record demand, and as airlines rebuild workforces after thousands of workers left the industry amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The FAA responded in a statement that “after receiving $54 billion in pandemic aid to help rescue airlines from massive layoffs and bankruptcies, the American people deserve to have their expectations met.”
The agency added that it has “acted on the issues raised in the letter,” including adding alternative routes, placing more controllers in high-demand areas and increasing data sharing.
The FAA said in May it would bolster air traffic control personnel in Florida.
The letter said an airline estimated that ATC-related issues “were a factor in at least a third of recent cancellations.”
The group said ATC “staff challenges have led to traffic restrictions under blue sky conditions.”
The letter also said it was “necessary” to ensure adequate staffing at New York Terminal Radar Approach Control.
On August 15, the FAA told: The Wall Street Journal it plans to hire 1,500 new air traffic controllers nationwide, starting next fiscal year — October 1.
“Where demand has increased, the FAA is adding additional controllers,” the FAA said.
The Federal Aviation Administration says it has received 57,956 applications for its 1,500 open air traffic controller positions this year.
Last week, the head of the ATC union reprimanded the FAA for not hiring quickly enough, saying there are now thousands of fewer controllers available.
“In 2011, there were more than 11,750 certified professional controllers and additional interns, making a total of more than 15,000 controllers aboard the FAA,” said ATC union leader Rich Santa.
“By early 2022, there were more than 1,000 fewer fully certified controllers and 1,500 fewer total controllers on board, a number that has decreased over the past 11 years,” he continues.
The median annual salary for an air traffic controller is approximately $138,556, and all applicants must be under the age of 30.
National Air Traffic Controllers Association president Rich Santa (left), who called on the FAA to speed up the hiring process, backs President Biden
LaGuardia and Newark Liberty top the list of America’s worst airports for flight cancellations, according to new data.
The FAA insists it is on track to meet its hiring targets for the year, saying in a statement: “The FAA hires new air traffic controllers annually, is on track to meet our hiring target this year and is reducing training backlogs. caused by by COVID-19.’
But Santa says the decline in the number of air traffic controllers is unforgivable given the “introduction of new technology and new entrants to the national airspace system.”
“We should have 1,000 more controllers, not 1,000 less than a decade ago,” Santa said, but “FAA personnel don’t track churn.”
Buttigieg had to step in and reassure airlines and customers that he is doing everything he can to fix the issues.
“We are also working to ensure that FAA personnel, air traffic control, are ready to support these flights,” Buttigieg said last month.
“So if we have an area where there’s a personnel problem, it’s happened in Florida, where you’ve had a huge demand and a lot of weather and other problems like military and even commercial space launches that affect the airspace.”
The ongoing chaos comes as American Airlines announced it would cut two percent of its flights from its schedule in September and October. CNN reported.
According to the airline, the cuts were “proactive adjustments” to meet the resources it currently has available and to build a “buffer” over the rest of its summer schedule.
The airline says it will reach passengers directly with “alternative travel options” and offer full refunds to those who decline the new flight arrangements.
The airline also announced that it will discontinue service to four smaller cities from September 7. They said they will no longer fly to Islip and Ithaca in New York, Toledo, Ohio or Dubuque, Iowa.
American Airlines spokesman Brian Metham said the changes were due to a “lack of regional pilots.”