Two weeks after the U.S.’ main aviation trade group, Airlines for America, blamed the Federal Aviation Administration for the plethora of delays and cancellations going on this summer, United Airlines jumped in with its two cents.
In a letter to employees, Jon Roitman, United’s chief operations officer, basically also blamed the government agency and its oversight of an understaffed group of air traffic controllers (ATC) for much of the woes.
“There are just more flights scheduled industrywide than the ATC staffing system can handle,” Roitman wrote in a missive seen by Bloomberg News. “Until that is resolved, we expect the US aviation system will remain challenged this summer and beyond.”
According to Bloomberg, United estimated that more than half of its delay minutes and almost three-quarters of its cancellations since March were due to an understaffed FAA having to implement initiatives such as reassigning departure flight times, putting flights in the air in a holding pattern, even re-routing flights.
The FAA was quick to fire back, according to Travel Weekly.
“It is unfortunate to see United Airlines conflate weather-related air traffic control measures with ATC staffing issues, which could deceptively imply that a majority of those situations are the result of FAA staffing,” the agency said in a statement. “The reality is that multiple overlapping factors have affected the system, including airline staffing levels, weather, high volume and ATC capacity, but the majority of delays and cancellations are not because of staffing at FAA.”
The FAA noted that while airlines, including United, have cut back their summer schedules and blamed it on a shortage of air traffic controllers, United nonetheless canceled more than 250 flights over two days during the Fourth of July holiday weekend even though the FAA said it experienced no staffing-related delays.
“We will continue to meet our responsibility to hold airlines accountable while standing ready to collaborate where appropriate so that Americans can confidently expect safe, reliable and affordable service whenever they purchase an airline ticket,” the FAA said.