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‘A most challenging summer’: JetBlue worries over FAA staffing as Amsterdam tickets go on sale

  • April 25, 2023

Amsterdam, for which tickets went on sale Tuesday.

But on the other hand, staffing issues at the Federal Aviation Administration continue to weigh on the aviation sector. The agency recently asked airlines to trim flights in the New York metro area for the summer, citing a lack of air traffic controllers to handle the volume carriers had planned to fly.

JetBlue executives said during the airline’s first-quarter earnings call Tuesday that FAA staffing remains a major concern.

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Flights to Amsterdam on sale

When JetBlue announced it would begin flights to Amsterdam earlier this spring, details were sparse. But now we know the plan.

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“Entrenched legacy carriers have dominated this route for decades. Our transatlantic service demonstrates how JetBlue’s entrance into a new market lowers fares and benefits customers,” JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes said in a statement. “We look forward to continue expanding JetBlue’s transatlantic footprint and introduce customers traveling to and from Amsterdam to our award-winning service and to our highly-acclaimed Mint and core products at affordable fares.”

FAA staffing headaches in New York

It’s not all blue skies, though.

The FAA has been pretty honest about staffing issues nationwide but notified airlines earlier this year that they’re expecting especially acute shortages in New York this summer.

As a result, the agency asked airlines to trim their schedules and even went as far as to grant what’s known as slot relief to carriers. 

Getting in the weeds for a second: At busy airports like John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia in New York, the FAA gives airlines specific permission to use the runways as a way to regulate the number of flights. That permission, called a slot, is awarded on a use it or lose it basis. If an airline doesn’t use the slots it’s been granted at such high-demand airfields, the FAA can revoke and reassign them. This summer, however, the agency is waiving the “use it” part of that requirement.

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JetBlue, which is headquartered in New York and has much of its flying concentrated in the Northeast, could see an outsized impact from the FAA’s staffing shortfall.

“This is going to be a most challenging summer ahead,” JetBlue’s president and chief operating officer Joanna Geraghty said on the airline’s earnings call Tuesday. “We need the FAA to continue to focus on a longer-term fix. This is coming at a cost to JetBlue and frankly to customers.”

She said the airline has already trimmed its schedules and plans to operate at a lower capacity than it originally planned for this summer. Instead, JetBlue will boost the number of crews it has on reserve and tweak the way it schedules its flights in order to mitigate the possibility of cascading delays and cancellations.

Zach Wichter is a travel reporter for USA TODAY based in New York. You can reach him at

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