RELEASE: Gottheimer’s Legislation Passes House to Study Causes of Flight Delays in NJ, NY, and CT

Calls on Department of Transportation and FAA to Publicize Plans to Address Summer Delays and Air Traffic Controller Shortage

Jul 20, 2023
Press

NORTH JERSEY — Today, July 20, 2023, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer’s (NJ-5) legislation to require a GAO study of flight delays at Tri-State Area airports in New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut passed the House as part of the bipartisan Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill.

The New York metropolitan area has the busiest airport system in the United States and the second busiest in the world after London.  

Gottheimer also wrote to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Acting FAA Administrator Polly Trottenberg asking them to make public their plans to specifically address flight delays and cancellations in the Tri-State Area this summer, and how they’re working to fix the air traffic controller shortage.

Recent Flight Delays:

  • On a single day in June, nearly 30% flights were canceled, and another 30% were delayed at Newark Liberty International Airport. 
  • From July 2 to July 9, Newark Liberty International, LaGuardia, and JFK ranked top three for cancellation across the country.
  • Last summer, 8% of all flights were delayed because of airline issues, and approximately 5 % were delayed because of issues with the National Aviation System, which includes air traffic control problems. Fewer than 1% were delayed because of weather.

Air Traffic Controller Shortage:

  • Last month, a report from the Transportation Department’s Inspector General found that the FAA did not have a plan to address a shortage of air traffic controllers. 
  • The air traffic controllers’ union repeatedly found that too few employees were available.
  • The FAA acknowledged that understaffing at a key facility responsible for coordinating traffic near the Tri-State Area’s three major airports could cause delays this summer.

“The Tri-State Area has been experiencing a spike in flight delays and cancellations — and nobody likes that. It hurts our families, our workers, and our economy — especially in North Jersey. Summer vacations and work travel are often planned months in advance. New Jersey families who save their hard-earned dollars for trips should not have to face repeated flight delays and costly cancellations,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5). “I’m extremely worried that these flight issues have become the new normal and that the FAA doesn’t have a strategy in place to respond to and mitigate the frequency of these challenges in the Tri-State Area. While determining the causes of these delays is crucial — and my legislation will address that — the FAA must also have plans in place.”

Full text of the letter can be found here and below:

July 20, 2023

The Honorable Pete Buttigieg 

Secretary

U.S. Department of Transportation 

1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE 

Washington, DC 20590

The Honorable Polly Trottenberg 

Acting Administrator

Federal Aviation Administration 

800 Independence Ave SW #300 

Washington, DC 20591

Dear Secretary Buttigieg and Administrator Trottenberg:

On behalf of the residents of Northern New Jersey, I am writing about the troubling number of massive flight delays and cancellations that have occurred this summer. I am concerned that these flight issues have become the new normal and that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) does not have a strategy in place to respond to and mitigate the frequency of these challenges.

In Northern New Jersey, we are fortunate to have some of the largest airports in the nation right in our backyard. The New York metropolitan area has the busiest airport system in the United States and the second busiest in the world after London. These airports, both large and small, provide hard-working New Jersey families, workers, and residents ample options to reach destinations across the United States and around the world. Work travel and summer vacations to see family and friends are often planned months in advance. New Jersey families who save their hard-earned dollars for these trips should not have to face repeated flight delays and costly cancellations.

Last month, cancellations and delays impacted thousands of travelers. On a single day in June, nearly 30 percent of flights were canceled and another 30 percent were delayed at Newark Liberty International Airport. And already this month, delays and cancellations have upended the travel plans of hundreds of thousands of more passengers. From July 2 to July 9 Newark Liberty International, LaGuardia, and John F. Kennedy International ranked top three for cancellation across the country.

Additionally, last month, a Transportation Department’s Inspector General report found that the FAA had not taken adequate steps to address shortages of air traffic controllers. The air traffic controllers’ union repeatedly found that too few employees were available. The FAA even acknowledged that understaffing at a key facility responsible for coordinating traffic near the Tri-State Area’s three major airports could cause delays this summer.

According to data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, last summer, eight percent of all flights were delayed because of airline issues, and approximately five percent of all flights were delayed because of issues with the National Aviation System, which includes air traffic control problems. Fewer than one percent of all flights were delayed because of weather.

I recently authored and helped pass an amendment to the bipartisan Securing Growth and Robust Leadership in American Aviation Act, legislation to reauthorize the FAA. My amendment requires a study of flight delays at airports in the Tri-State Area — in New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut. While determining the causes of these delays is crucial, the FAA must also have plans in place to deal with these unfortunate realities. As such, I would respectfully request answers to the following questions:

  1. The New York and New Jersey metropolitan area represents one of the busiest regions for air travel in the United States. Given the volume of flights, how is the FAA approaching delays and cancellations specifically in this region?
  1. What factors does the FAA blame for the increase in flight delays this summer? What is its plan to mitigate these causes?
  1. What is the FAA’s plan to address a shortage of air traffic controllers and issues with the National Aviation System?
  1. With weather events becoming more frequent and severe, what is the FAA doing to proactively prepare for these weather driven delays and cancellations?

It is critical that we examine what the causes are behind delays in our region and make a plan to prepare for them. I look forward to receiving your responses and working with you.

Sincerely,

Josh Gottheimer

MEMBER OF CONGRESS

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