With Sec. Buttigieg Telling Airlines to Cut East Coast Flights, Sen. Cruz Wants Answers on Air Traffic Controller Shortages

April 19, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Ranking Member Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) recently sent a letter to Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg requesting information related to the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) long-running inability to address congestion and air traffic controller shortages in the New York region. Earlier this month, Sec. Buttigieg called on air carriers to reduce their flight schedules on the East Coast during the peak summer travel season, potentially reducing consumer choices and increasing prices for travelers.

As reports show, the air traffic control center in New York is staffed at a mere 54%, far below the 81% national average. Due to the shortages of air traffic controllers, the FAA has asked major airlines to cut their service by as much as 10%, offering them incentives to do so, in a move that has been called “unprecedented.”

Sen. Cruz wrote:

“Last month, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) asked air carriers to reduce their flight schedules by 10 percent in the New York region during peak summer travel from May 15 to September 15 due to an air traffic controller staffing shortage. The FAA issued a notice on March 22, 2023 to waive the slot usage requirements and prevent air carriers from being penalized for complying with requested flight reductions. The FAA claimed this staffing shortage is from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, this problem is a direct result of the FAA’s own failure to solve long-running staff shortages in the New York-New Jersey Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON). As a result, the price of airfare will almost certainly rise and competition will decrease at some of our country’s busiest airports.”

Sen. Cruz requested details regarding their efforts to mitigate air traffic controller shortages, what safeguards are in place to prevent future reductions, and whether such reductions are expected during the upcoming Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

The full text of the letter is available here.