Airlines scored a point in the losing game that is this summer’s air travel situation when the FAA had to admit that a ground stop at New York’s three major airports was because of staff shortages. The agency reduced traffic in the world’s busiest airspace, causing the predictable system-wide disruptions. For months, the agency and the airlines have been sparring about who should take the blame for a trying summer for many travelers. It’s a numbers game that will take time to resolve, says the head of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.
Union President Rich Santa told the Aero Club in Washington last month that everything from weather to the increase in space launches has disrupted the industry’s recovery from the pandemic. He said there are now 10 percent fewer controllers than there were 10 years ago when there should be 10 percent more. “Just like during sequestration and the 35-day government shutdown, the pandemic again forced FAA to suspend hiring and temporarily close its training academy,” Santa said. “This has negatively affected staffing.”