FLYING Magazine

The FAA is ramping up air traffic control staffing in northern Florida and eyeing new strategies to keep aircraft moving, the company announced after a two-day meeting with airlines and aviation stakeholders targeting air traffic congestion in the state.

FAA staffing shortages, particularly at the Jacksonville Air Route Traffic Control Center, along with weather, space launches, and increases in travel demand have all contributed to widespread air traffic congestion and the cancellation of thousands of flights in the last month, airlines told the agency.

“The weather issues and resulting downline impacts were exacerbated by staffing shortages at the Jacksonville Air Traffic Control Center, which controls airspace over the northern two-thirds of Florida,” Frontier CEO Barry Biffle said to Simple Flying. 

The issue prompted JetBlue to cut its summer schedule by more than 10 percent, US News reported.

“The airline industry has specific impacts with respect to Florida air traffic control and travel through there,” Southwest COO Mike Van de Ven said last month during the airline’s first-quarter earnings call, The Points Guy reported.

Traffic demand shows no signs of slowing, with airlines predicting increases that surpass pre-pandemic levels.

“During the meeting, the FAA asked the users to share anticipated growth at destinations across the country so the agency can prepare to match demand,” the agency said. “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.”

Short term, the FAA said it would also increase the frequency in which it relayed information regarding airspace events.

“The agency will also work with stakeholders to develop a playbook to keep aircraft moving safely when weather, space launches or other events constrain capacity,” as well as using alternate routes and altitudes when possible, it said.

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