FAA launches faster East Coast routes to avoid congestion

  • The FAA has opened nearly 170 new flight routes in the congested eastern United States
  • The new routes are mostly above 18,000 feet, and are intended to reduce congestion on more popular routes when flying.
  • The FAA continues to deal with staffing shortages, prompting airlines to scale back summer schedules in the New York area.

A United Airlines flight taxis at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey on January 11, 2023.

Kena Betancourt AFP | Good pictures

The Federal Aviation Administration has introduced nearly 170 new flight routes that are shorter and faster in an effort to ease congestion in the eastern United States.

The agency said Monday that it’s part of a seven-year effort by the FAA and airlines to redraw high-altitude route maps for flights.

The FAA introduced 169 new routes last week, scrapping old ones that were longer and more zigzag. Those long routes were designed for aircraft that rely on ground-based radar, not the GPS used by modern aircraft. New ones are more direct.

The new routes are mostly above 18,000 feet, and aim to reduce congestion on more popular routes when flying. Some new routes are in the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.

“This change helps prevent delays by giving the agency more ability to direct traffic to specific routes based on the flight’s destination,” the FAA said in a release. “When weathering occurs, the controllers have more flexibility. Finally, fewer convergence points and simpler flows improve safety.”

The FAA estimates that the new routes will save about 6,000 minutes of travel time per year.

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The change comes just ahead of the summer travel season, which airline executives expect to be busy. Pressure from the aviation industry has increased on the FAA to address congestion and delays, although airline staffing issues have also played a role in exacerbating disruptions.

Last year, 1.7 million flights, more than 20% of those operated by U.S. airlines, were delayed, down from 1.5 million, or about 16% of flights, in 2019, before the pandemic, according to the airline watchdog. FlightAware. So far this year, 22% of American-Airline-operated flights have been delayed, according to the site’s data.

Some of the new routes are flights to and from Florida, where airlines often face obstacles such as thunderstorms, military operations and space launches. Last month, the FAA said it would take aviation disruptions into account While approving the launch of the rocket.

“American has long been committed to opening additional high-altitude routes on the East Coast, and we believe that will bring significant benefits to our customers and team members,” American Airlines COO David Seymour said in an emailed statement.

Separately, several airlines, including JetBlue Airways and United Airlines, are cutting flights in the New York City and Washington, D.C., areas as part of plans to reduce congestion due to a shortage of air traffic controllers.

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