JetBlue’s flight from Burlington to New York City may be restored, but it will depend on whether a nationwide shortage of air traffic controllers can be adequately addressed by the Federal Aviation Administration.
On Wednesday, Dec. 6, Sens. Bernie Sanders and Peter Welch and representatives from Rep. Becca Balint’s office met with JetBlue Chief Executive Officer Robin Hayes to urge him to reinstate the flight between Patrick Leahy Burlington International Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City.
JetBlue announced in October it would be ending its flights from Patrick Leahy BTV to JFK on Jan. 4. The airline blamed the decision on “ongoing air traffic control staffing issues,” and a resulting push to reduce congestion in the New York airspace, plus the unwinding of an alliance it had made with American Airlines, for its decision to pull out of Burlington.
Air traffic controller shortage
There’s currently a shortage of about 3,000 air traffic controllers, according to the FAA, which led the agency to offer airlines the option to reduce flights by 10% at JFK and LaGuardia airports through Oct. 24, 2024. New York airports have been hit particularly hard by the ongoing shortage of air traffic controllers, according to the FAA, and are only 54% staffed.
The reduction in flights, known as a “slot waiver,” allows airlines like JetBlue to temporarily suspend routes without losing the ability to use those slots, which are designated times that airlines are allowed to take off or land at an airport, in this case Patrick Leahy BTV.
In response to the Vermont Congressional Delegation, Hayes said, “When the slot waiver expires, JetBlue expects to restore service from Burlington to New York.”
Restoring the JetBlue flight to Burlington depends on solving air traffic controller shortage
Whether the slot waiver will expire in October 2024, as planned, remains to be seen, and will depend on adequately addressing the shortage in air traffic controllers.
While Sanders’ office issued a press release on Thursday saying the Vermont delegation had received a “commitment” from JetBlue on returning flight service between Burlington and JFK, Patrick Leahy BTV Aviation Director Nic Longo was more circumspect in a statement provided to the Burlington Free Press on Friday.
“The airport leadership team has remained in negotiations with JetBlue executives since their October 25 announcement that they would be terminating service from Leahy BTV, as well as worked with Delta, who will restore two daily routes to JFK and three daily routes to LaGuardia beginning in January,” Longo said. “We appreciate the support of the federal delegation in our continued collective efforts to restore and improve access to this critical travel route.”
Contact Dan D’Ambrosio at 660-1841 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanDambrosioVT.