Air traffic controller shortage causes airlines to slash schedules

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Returning to Rochester on Sunday from New York City, frequent travelers like Thandie Sykes say scaling back flights at New York’s three major hub airports, La Guardia, JFK, and Newark, will likely lead to more money coming out of her pocket.

“I think it will be inconvenient, ya know, due to less availability that can result in higher prices. which is harder on families and individuals,” Sykes said.

Due to the air traffic controller shortage, American Airlines says it plans to slash schedules that the FAA predicts could lead up to a 45 percent increase in flight delays out of New York hub airports.

Not welcome news to spring break travelers, like Tim Robinson, who has family returning to Rochester after spring break.

“We just went to Disney World. we flew the kids down and my daughter coming out of Washington out of the last minute, was not going to make a flight, so she had to change airlines and luckily she found something and got down there. And, when these guys left here, their flight was two hours late leaving,” Robinson said.

In a statement issued this month, the FAA says it’s hiring as many qualified air traffic controllers as possible, but in the short term, that won’t help travelers like Robinson.

“It’s going to make it harder. It’s already bad enough. ya know, COVID messed a lot of things up and this is one of them. Until our government does something to fix it, ya know, hire more people, train more people,” Robinson said.

Just as long as it’s done in a safe and effective way, as the nation’s airline industry continues to recover from the pandemic.

“I hope that they have an opportunity to increase air traffic controllers, but not rush the process, because we don’t want to at the cost of safety, at the cost of lives,” Sykes said.