Business travel

Carriers are cutting schedules to improve operations and adapt to demand

United Airlines announced Thursday that it is cutting 50 daily domestic departures from its schedule at Newark Liberty International Airport beginning July 1, the carrier confirmed. Departures make up about 12% of the airline’s Newark schedule.

The carrier has requested a waiver from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to temporarily adjust its schedule for the remainder of the summer to “help minimize excessive delays and improve on-time performance” and to help ” ease congestion in Newark,” United executive vice president and chief operating officer Jon Roitman wrote in a memo to staff.

The cuts won’t result in any market exits, just frequency cuts, and are the result of “erratic operations at Newark, caused by many factors, including airport construction,” Roitman wrote, adding that the airline has the “aircraft, pilots, crew and personnel to support our Newark program.”

United CEO Scott Kirby spoke about the challenges in Newark, noting during the company’s first quarter earnings call. He said that in theory, Newark has the capacity to fly 79 operations per hour, under “perfect conditions, which are rare,” but the FAA has let airlines violate those rules, according to Kirby.

“Unfortunately, our employees and customers are collateral damage to this,” Kirby said. “It’s time for the FAA to enforce its own rules.”

Another problem Kirby noted during a Interview with CNN was air traffic control understaffed, resulting in “more flights than the airport can handle”.

Still, Roitman in his memo thanked “the professionals at the FAA Newark Air Traffic Control Tower and NY TRACON, whose expertise has been exemplary during this difficult time.” In addition, the memo said United was not planning any schedule changes for its six other domestic hubs this summer.

Other carrier cuts

United are not the only ones to adjust their schedule. Delta Air Lines has confirmed that it is ending nonstop flights between Atlanta and Colorado Springs and Oakland, and between Detroit and Sacramento starting September 6. It also cut advertised service before it even started between Boston and Memphis.

The service cuts come nearly a month after Delta announced it was cutting about 100 daily departures between July 1 and August 7 in the United States and Latin America to improve operational reliability.

American Airlines also confirmed it was cutting service to four regional cities and cutting three routes. Destinations losing service are due to shortages of regional pilots, according to American, and include Islip and Ithaca in New York; Toledo, Ohio; and Dubuque, Iowa, all beginning Sept. 7.

“We will proactively contact customers who are due to travel after this date to offer alternative arrangements,” American wrote in a statement.

The other road cuts are scheduled to take place between Charlotte and Alexandria, Louisiana, in October, and between Chicago and Ontario, California and St. Lucia in November.

JetBlue announced in April that it would cut its summer schedule by about 10% from its original plan in order to increase reliability, according to a company statement. In its second quarter earnings call on the same day, the company cut its projected capacity growth to zero to 5% in 2022, from plans of 11 to 15%.

U.S. carriers had a rocky start to the busy summer season, with nearly 3,000 fights canceled over Memorial Day weekend and nearly 3,400 canceled the weekend of June 17, June 17-20, according to FlightAware data. Pent-up travel demand coupled with staff shortages and inclement weather conditions are contributing to the disruptions.