FAA and airlines to discuss how to alleviate Florida airspace congestion: Travel Weekly

The FAA will host airlines in a two-day meeting early next month to discuss ways to increase the efficiency of airspace management over Florida. 

The move comes after a series of air traffic control disruptions over the Sunshine State, which airlines have cited as one cause of a recent spate of cancellations.

“In recent months, a number of factors have contributed to increased congestion in the already busy airspace,” the FAA said in a statement. “These include a higher number of operations in nearby military airspace, more frequent thunderstorm activity across the peninsula, as well as a stepped-up cadence of space launches. 

“At the same time, the number of flights scheduled for Florida’s busiest airports has rebounded to well above pre-pandemic levels. The combination of these factors leaves little margin for the system to absorb flight delays, particularly during periods of peak travel demand, such as weekends and holidays.”

JetBlue and Spirit have been the most operationally challenged U.S. mainline carriers this month, and both focus strongly on Florida. Those carriers, along with others, cited thunderstorms in Florida as a cause of severe operational challenges during the first weekend of April, when U.S. carriers cancelled more than 4,400 flights over a three-day period.

Looking further back, Southwest attributed a mid-October operational collapse in part to air traffic control delays implemented in Florida by the FAA. The carrier cancelled nearly 2,500 flights from Oct. 8 through Oct. 11 of last year. 

In its statement, the FAA said that this year there have been approximately six times as many weather delays in Florida as an average year. Launches at Cape Canaveral are also expected to double this year. 

In addition, commercial and private flight operations are exceeding pre-pandemic levels. Operations are up 13% percent from pre-pandemic operations at Miami International Airport, up 32% in Palm Beach, up 26% in Fort Myers and up 7% in Tampa. 

Executive airports in Orlando and Fort Lauderdale have seem bumps of 13% and 15%, respectively.

The FAA didn’t comment on whether it is dealing with staffing shortfalls at Florida airports. But in an earnings call Tuesday, JetBlue said ATC staffing shortages are one cause of the carrier’s 10% cancellation rate for April.

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