JetBlue Blames New FAA Rules For Delays

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While most airlines blamed winter weather for delays and tie-ups over the weekend, JetBlue also cited the FAA's new pilot rest rules as a factor. The carrier took the unusual step of canceling all flights at New York and Boston airports Monday afternoon through Tuesday morning. At the JetBlue website, the airline posted its litany of woes: "The new year began with the winter storm some called Hercules, shutting down the heaviest trafficked air corridor in the world during one of the heaviest travel periods of the year. Mother Nature then followed that up with icing conditions over the weekend, causing even more issues and ground stops at the airports. Even as airports began to reopen though, newly launched FAA regulations on pilot duty times caused delayed flights to quickly turn into canceled ones." Jet Blue operations at New York and Boston were canceled from 1 p.m. Monday through 10 a.m. local time Tuesday. 

The cancellations aimed to allow 17 hours of rest for crews, and time for aircraft servicing, the airline said. Monday's rainy weather followed by a blast of polar air would "turn airports in the Northeast into ice rinks once again," said JetBlue. More than 3,000 flights were cancelled across the U.S. on Monday, and 300 of those were JetBlue's. The new pilot rest rules, which took effect on Saturday, require airlines to give pilots at least 10 hours off between flights, including time for eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. Cockpit time also is limited to eight or nine hours, depending on the time of day. 

On Tuesday, JetBlue backed off a bit on blaming the rest rules for its problems, according to Politico. An airline spokeswoman told Politico in an email that the new rule "was not the main factor" in the cancellations. "Crewmember safety and aircraft operability/safety were the primary factors in our decision to reduce our schedule in the Northeast, with crew rest coming into place as well." JetBlue was the only airline to cite the FAA rules as a factor in this week's flight cancellations, according to CNN. They also were the only airline to request an extension to the implementation deadline, the FAA told CNN.