United Airlines is requesting that the federal government intervene to alleviate traffic congestion at Newark Liberty International Airport, where a runway repair project that began on July 6 is causing hassles for many summer tourists.
“To temporarily and proportionally restrict the number of operations per hour at Newark while airport capacity is constrained by runway development,” United CEO Scott Kirby urged Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and FAA Administrator Steve Dickson.
In recent weeks, Newark, which was the 15th busiest U.S. airport by total passengers in 2020, has experienced extensive aircraft delays, long taxi waits, and several cancellations.
United Airlines, which has a hub at the airport in northern New Jersey, flies 65 percent of all Newark flights.
Kirby wrote in a letter dated July 15 that during a six-day period in July, “the average number of (Newark) flight cancellations by all airlines was more than 100 flights per day,” putting “extreme strain on workers and operations.”
Kirby told regulators that United, which plans to resume a full schedule at Newark this fall, wants the FAA to step in to ensure that flight reductions are shared equitably among the airlines who fly in and out of the airport. He did not advocate returning to slot controls like those at New York’s JFK and LaGuardia airports, however.
Kirby requested that the FAA “bring together all relevant parties to temporarily and proportionally restrict the number of flights per hour throughout July, August, and September.”
The FAA is “reviewing the letter and will reply immediately to” United, according to an FAA spokeswoman.
United backed the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s decision to work on the runways now, while traffic is still low compared to pre-pandemic levels.
“It is widely acknowledged that Newark has consistently been the worst-performing airport in the country in terms of flight traffic over the last few years,” Kirby noted.
“During the 15-year period from 2005 to 2019, Newark was the system’s most delayed core airport for 10 of those years,” he continued.
The Port Authority did not respond to Kirby’s letter right away.
Since the runway renovation began, United has canceled around 70 of its current 240 scheduled flights each day at Newark, according to airline officials. It used to fly around 430 flights each day before the pandemic.