With the aviation industry short thousands of pilots, air traffic controllers, and flight attendants, airlines are carefully planning routes to maximize the number of people on each flight while ensuring that less popular routes do not drain resources.
The FAA even agreed in September to extend the lower number of flights required to fly out of New York and Washington, D.C., until October 2024 to assist airlines that are unable to meet those goals due to pilot shortages.
As a result, airlines are reducing flights into and out of those cities. JetBlue Airways (JBLU), based in New York, has announced the cancellation of 14 routes, primarily from New York and Boston.
The airline’s route from Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) to the airports of Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) and Frederick Douglass Lesser Rochester International Airport (ROC) in upstate New York, as first reported by travel website The Points Guy, will be discontinued on January 3.
Other routes that will be eliminated include Newark to Miami International Airport (MIA), JFK to Vermont’s Burlington International Airport (BTV), and JFK to D.C.’s Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), which is closer to the city than Dulles.
Routes from New York’s LaGuardia (LGA) to Nashville, Charleston, Jacksonville, Portland, Maine, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Sarasota, Florida, and L.F. Wade International Airport in Bermuda are also being reduced. Some of these will be eliminated in January 2024, while others will be eliminated a few weeks later in March.
On the West Coast, a flight between Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and Charleston International Airport (CHS) is also being eliminated, but the market hit the hardest is Burlington, where JetBlue will no longer serve after the JFK-BTV route is eliminated.
“Given ongoing air traffic control difficulties and the resulting slot waiver for airlines to reduce congestion in the city’s airspace, and as we return slots to the airlines as we unwind the Northeast Alliance, we are suspending a number of routes in JFK,” the airline said in a statement announcing the reductions. “[…] Exiting a market is a difficult decision, but we expect the current air traffic controller shortage to last for some time and do not see an alternative to feasibly bringing back this flight.”
Both Burlington residents and the airport’s Director of Aviation, Nic Longo, expressed dismay at the decision, as the city of nearly 50,000 is a reasonable drive from New York and Boston and relies on these short routes to transport residents to more distant locations. On the other hand, JetBlue’s decision to cancel the flight presents an opportunity for competitors.
“Our relationship with JetBlue goes back to over twenty years ago, and the airline averaged 10% of Leahy BTV passengers on an ongoing basis,” Longo said in a statement. “Passengers will still be able to fly from Burlington to New York-JFK via Delta Air Lines, and we will work using our partners United (UAL), American Airlines (AAL), and Delta Air Lines (DAL) to expand services with this potential opening up.”