FAA allows Delta to cut flights in D.C., New York this summer

The Federal Aviation Administration said Friday it is allowing Delta Air Lines to cut some flights this summer at John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia airports in New York, and at Reagan National Airport near Washington.

The partial relief for the airline from federal requirements that it use specific time slots at those airports — or face losing them — could undercut some passengers’ summer travel plans, the federal agency said.

The FAA said Delta customers should be offered the choice of a refund or “re-accommodation on comparable transportation, including service on another carrier as needed” through Sept. 5, when the waiver from flying Delta’s usual time slots at those airports will end.

Delta asked to cancel the flights, in part, because of high numbers of employees who called out sick amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to the FAA. It cited data from Delta showing that in June, “Delta’s pilots missed 13,748 days due to sickness compared to 9,191 in June 2019 — a 50 percent increase.”

“Our partnership with the FAA to gain slot relief at New York and Washington, D.C. airports will allow us to continue improving shared challenges and service reliability with minimal impact to customers,” the airline said in a statement. Delta did not say how many flights would be affected.

In a Friday letter to Delta, the FAA said it found that “for a brief period in the summer of 2022, these pandemic effects constituted a highly unusual and unpredictable condition beyond Delta’s control.” The letter continued: “These effects will not form a sufficient basis for relief going forward because Delta will have had sufficient opportunity to plan and take remedial action, including moving resources to prioritize the staffing of operations at these airports, if necessary.”

Delta’s request came as airlines are under scrutiny for their performance this summer, a period marked by heightened demand for air travel during a pandemic that saw airlines lose thousands of employees.

Read More: FAA allows Delta to cut flights in D.C., New York this summer

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