FAA launches faster east coast routes to avoid traffic jams


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

Kena Betancur | AFP | Getty Images

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

It’s part of a seven-year effort by the FAA and airlines to redesign high-altitude route maps for airplanes, the agency said Monday.

The FAA launched the 169 new routes last week, and is dropping the older ones, which were longer and more zigzagging. These longer routes were designed for aircraft relying on ground radar and not the GPS used by modern aircraft. The new ones will be more direct.

The new trajectories are mostly above 18,000 feet, when planes are cruising, and aim to reduce congestion on popular routes. Some of the new routes cross the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.

“The change helps prevent delays by giving the agency more ability to direct traffic to specific routes based on the aircraft’s destination,” the FAA said in a statement. “When the weather happens, controllers will also have more flexibility. Finally, fewer converging points and simpler flows improve safety.”

The FAA estimated that the new routes would reduce approximately 6,000 minutes of travel time per year.

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

Last year, 1.7 million flights, more than 20% of those operated by US airlines, were delayed, compared to 1.5 million, or about 16% of flights, in 2019, before the pandemic, according to the flight tracking site. FlightAware. So far this year, 22% of flights operated by US airlines have been delayed, according to data from the site.

Some of the new routes involve flights to and from Florida, where airlines face obstacles such as frequent thunderstorms, military activity and space launches. Last month, the FAA said it would consider airline flight disruptions when approving rocket launches.

“American has long been a proponent of unlocking additional high-altitude routes along the East Coast and we are optimistic they will bring significant benefits to our customers and team members,” he added. . American airlines COO David Seymour said in an emailed statement.

Separately, several airlines including Jet Blue Airways And United Airlines are reducing flights in the New York and Washington, DC areas due to shortages of FAA air traffic controllers, as part of a plan to reduce disruption.

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