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Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg has urged airlines to give the FAA the needed information before increasing the service offered to passengers. Airlines need to be proactive and clear with the agency when it comes to adding capacity or launching new services. The US Transportation Department (DOT) is asking airlines to conduct more frequent over-water routes to North Carolina during the busy holiday season. The FAA hopes that by indicating which markets are in the process of “expanding rapidly” to the DOT, it can decrease the confusion and anxiety around future air traffic. US airlines experienced some serious competition in the summer season, with many flights delayed or cancelled. In a letter to US airlines, DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg said there are “encouraging” signs that things may have begun to stabilize. He warned that even though things seem to be easing from an airline perspective, that’s only part of the story. The FAA expects a significant rise in air traffic at Florida airports this winter, just like last year–in fact, it expects it to be even busier than ever. One way for airlines to reduce congestion is for them to route air traffic away from the US southeast coast, specifically between North Carolina and Florida. American Airlines has hubs in both Charlotte and Miami, meaning multiple airlines operate routes connecting these two states. “I’m happy to announce additional steps to help improve flying this winter, in the spirit of continued partnership and preparation,” Mayor Pete wrote. “FAA has determined that this past winter season, over-water Atlantic routes between North Carolina and Florida were underutilized the control tower because some planes weren’t equipped to use them. This is because some planes are not certified to fly over water. To avoid any delays and help you prevent from losing money, we strongly encourage you to ensure your fleets flying to and from Florida are certified for taking these over-water routes when inland routes become congested.” Whether you’re planning to travel over water or flying in that weirdly shaped aircraft of yours, pilots are required by the FAA to take steps to ensure safety. Since it’s hard to know what emergency conditions might arise, you need to be prepared for anything. As the flight delays and cancellations in the US southeast continue, Airlines for America (A4A) says that “If you’re trying to order a pizza or rent a bike, your delays can cascade and make life miserable.” Buttigieg also noted that “FAA has increased staffing by 10% at key Florida facility,” likely referring to the Jacksonville center, or one of 20 centers across the US. A4A says that, despite the increase in funding, there is still a shortage of staff at the US’s only remaining center. The FAA recently increased staffing over pre-pandemic levels but more is needed according to ATC unions. Mayor Pete Buttigieg wants airlines to give the FAA more warning in advance about plans to increase capacity or start new routes at congested airports. The US Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx stated that effective collaboration with air traffic control is necessary to make sure all residents are safe and have a reliable travel experience. It’s vital to let the FAA know about plans for growth near high-growth markets, such as Denver (DEN) and Phoenix (PHX), so controllers can prepare to respond appropriately. He also emphasized the importance of good communication, early and often, in order to work best with the travelling public. FAA traffic data reveals that routes between Colorado and Arizona are seeing increased traffic. That’s good news for pilots and passengers alike, who can expect to see more frequent flights in 2019. The secretary of the Department of Transportation expressed optimism over recent efforts to address both the long-term staffing issue, as well as increasing pilot salaries.
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