Ah, Florida. Home to sunshine, beaches, theme parks — and apparently, the source of everyone’s recent airline travel troubles.
It certainly hasn’t been easy to travel by airplane lately, and experts have cited staffing shortages and jet fuel costs as just some of the reasons why. But now, we might have another insight as to why so many delays and cancelations have been affecting travelers — and it looks like Florida is to blame.
If you had Florida on your “Reasons Why Airline Travel Is So Bad Right Now” bingo card, congratulations! Florida airspace is apparently difficult to navigate even under the most normal circumstances, and according to the Wall Street Journal — it’s been a while since we’ve seen “normal.”
On a recent weekend in the Sunshine State, airspace was restricted over the Gulf of Mexico for military training while an air-traffic-control center near Jacksonville scrambled to find enough staff so they wouldn’t have to limit north-south traffic (spoiler: it didn’t work).
On top of that, a thunderstorm started rolling in that threatened to impact an important route over the Gulf, and a rocket was launched into space on the Atlantic side causing even more airspace restrictions.
This amalgam of airline nightmares has become an “obstacle course” and has caused a ripple effect throughout the rest of the United States.
Every major airline has service to Florida, and despite fewer domestic flights overall in early 2022 compared with 2019, the number of flights to Florida increased.
CEO of Avelo Airlines (who recently announced new routes to Orlando International Airport) Andrew Levy shared that delays are now a “regular headache” with planes sometimes having to wait to take off during hours-long ground stops, and that the airline is often behind schedules “due to factors Mr. Levy said are beyond its control.”
Florida has pointed out just how fragile the aviation system is, and with staffing shortages and unpredictable weather piling onto the system as well, it’s no wonder why travelers are so disheartened.
In the first six months of 2022, one-fifth of flights were delayed daily, with Miami, Orlando, and Palm Beach having some of the highest numbers. Cancelation rates were higher than the national average at Tampa Bay Area airports and Fort Myers as well.
The increasing number of space launches off of Florida’s east coast has also contributed to the traffic jams. Airspace is restricted over the areas where these spacecraft are launched causing air traffic controllers to have to find alternate routes for planes — and they can only accommodate so many aircraft at a time.
Florida is also home to several coastal military bases that often execute exercises and drills over the water on both coasts, which restricts airspace as well.
Storms have been especially disruptive lately despite airline executives saying they’re “used to stormy skies.” A former air-traffic-control manager out of Orlando shared that Florida’s north-south flight patterns are particularly affected by inclement weather, causing delays as there are only so many alternate routes available.
A whopping 59% of flights were delayed on April 1st at Florida’s 10 biggest airports — which was followed by 1,900 flights canceled the following day at 1,600 canceled the day after that. JetBlue President Joanna Geraghty expressed that the company had 115 hours of air traffic delays in Florida for the month compared to April 2019.
The Federal Aviation Administration has one air-traffic-control facility near Jacksonville that serves as a central point for flights coming in and out of Florida. This facility is also responsible for flights traveling to the Caribbean and Latin America that fly over Florida airspace.
When airspace is restricted or storms are occurring, the available flight routes keep shrinking. This, combined with the state being bordered by water “turns the Florida airspace into the equivalent of a congested two-lane highway at rush hour.”
The FAA had previously stated that it would hire more than 1,500 new air-traffic-controllers throughout the United States beginning on October 1st. They’re also working on reducing a training backlog caused by the global pandemic. The agency shared they are adding additional controllers “where demand has increased.”
Former COO of the FAA’s air-traffic organization, David Grizzle, said that short-staffed airlines have “compounded delays caused by air-traffic-control” since airlines no longer have reserves of pilots, flight attendants, and staff to accommodate them.
It seems that for now, Florida is a perfect storm of air traffic nightmares and we may not be seeing any sunshine for a while.
If you’re looking for more travel news, find out how the Department of Transportation is putting pressure on airlines to update their customer service policies here. One airline is cutting thousands of flights from its schedule this fall — read more here. We’ve also got all the info on the most reliable airlines here.
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Have you had airline troubles in Florida? Let us know in the comments!
The post Airline Travel Is a Nightmare — Florida Might Be the Culprit first appeared on the disney food blog.