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Delta, United, and American Are Slashing Flights at 3 Major Airports, as of May 15

The "big three" carriers could cut up to 10 percent of their departures from the destinations.

Making travel arrangements can already be difficult enough without having to worry about the current state of the airline industry. From concern over ensuring your family can sit together to hopefully avoiding a large-scale schedule meltdown and everything in between, getting to where you want to go without incident has become increasingly difficult. As a result, some carriers have decided to take matters into their own hands by making changes to address lingering issues head-on. And now, Delta, United, and American Airlines have said they will be slashing flights at three major airports in the U.S. beginning this May. Read on to see if these schedule changes could affect your travel plans.

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Delta, American, and United Airlines have all confirmed they will soon be cutting back flights from three airports.


This summer, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, United Airlines, and JetBlue Airways have all confirmed they will be cutting back departures from the New York City area, Airline Weekly reports. The carriers will reduce their volume at John F. Kennedy Airport, LaGuardia Airport, and Newark Liberty Airport in nearby New Jersey to help ease delays and other issues during the upcoming busy travel season. The changes could potentially affect up to 10 percent of each airline's departures from each of the transportation hubs.

The move comes after a meeting held with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on March 29 to discuss ongoing issues related to a shortage of air traffic controllers. Last month, the agency said that it expected only to have 54 percent of the necessary staff working in the New York City area and anticipated delays on about 45 percent of all flights from the region if traffic was not decreased, Bloomberg reported.

Authorities will allow the carriers to cut back their schedules temporarily to ease congestion issues.

A row of planes taxiing on a runway for takeoff

The imminent changes come after the FAA agreed to issue waivers to the airlines that will allow them to hold on to their coveted assigned runway slots at each airport. Typically, carriers can lose the slots—which are used to coordinate takeoffs and landings—if they are not used 80 percent of the time, Airline Weekly reports.

While no exact schedule changes have been made, American said it would cut back its flights from LaGuardia to Dallas, Miami, Kansas City, and St. Louis, Reuters reports. The airline will also be reducing flights from Newark to Chicago. When reached for comment, American Airlines confirmed in an email to Best Life that it would "temporarily" reduce flights from the airports, adding that the carrier was "proactively reaching out to affected customers to offer alternate travel arrangements."

The carriers will have until April 30 to formally request their waivers from the FAA before the changes go into effect from May 15 through Sept. 15. The special changes could also affect Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., which was included in the agency's new exclusions, per Airline Weekly.

"This summer is going to be really hard again," JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes said in New York on March 29, per Bloomberg. "We need to reduce flying and make sure we can operate what we've got."

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Airline executives have previously called out the FAA for its lingering staffing issues.

A Delta plane taking off with an air traffic control tower in the background

This is not the first time airlines have spoken out about having to deal with hurdles. During an earnings call on Jan. 18, United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby pointed out issues within the system that made it difficult for carriers to return to their pre-pandemic levels of operations. "The system simply can't handle the volume today, much less the anticipated growth," he said during the call. "There are a number of airlines who cannot fly their schedules. The customers are paying the price."

Last summer, other executives also called out shortfalls in infrastructure that made it difficult to stick to schedules. Delta CEO Ed Bastian said that air traffic control staffing issues with the FAA were the "most stressed" part of the industry, Skift reported. And in July, United Airlines Chief Operating Officer Jon Roitman aired similar grievances with the agency, saying there were "just more flights scheduled industrywide than the [air traffic control] staffing system can handle (particularly in [New York] and [Florida])."

In an email to Best Life, a company spokesperson for JetBlue said: "While it is disappointing to reduce flights for customers as they plan their summer holidays and as New York City works to rebound from the pandemic, we are pleased the leadership team at the FAA is proactively working on getting in front of this and is being transparent about the staffing shortages." The spokesperson added that with the scheduling and staffing issues out in the open, it was advocating for Congress to increase funding for the FAA to allow for necessary technology upgrades and improve efficiency.

When reached for comment, a spokesperson for Delta told Best Life that the company was still assessing its schedule leading up to the April 30 deadline to "ensure the best customer experience" through the coming months. "Delta commends the FAA for recognizing shared challenges that exist between the FAA, airports and airlines at New York and New Jersey airports, and for implementing a coordinated plan to improve operational reliability at these airports, while mitigating flight disruptions for customers during the peak summer travel season," they wrote in an email.

This isn't the only time recently airlines have announced schedule changes and cuts.

woman at airport watching plane
Freebird7977 / Shutterstock

This summer's expected changes aren't the only time airlines have shifted their schedules recently. In March, United announced that it would stop all flight service to Erie, Pennsylvania, and Springfield, Illinois, effective June 1 and May 31, respectively, The Points Guy reported. The two cities became the latest additions to the list of 38 smaller destinations dropped by the carrier since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, which includes Flagstaff, Arizona; Tallahassee, Florida; Hilo, Hawaii; and Santa Rosa, California, among others.

And on April 3, Delta confirmed it was also pulling out of two destinations. As of June 5, the airline said it would no longer fly to or from La Crosse, Wisconsin, and State College, Pennsylvania, The Points Guy reports. The company has dropped 17 destinations since the pandemic, including Santa Barbara, California; Manchester, New Hampshire; and Erie, Pennsylvania.

Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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