Dealt Bad Hand, Buttigieg and Kirby Disagree on Who’s Played It Worse – | Airlines


After several months of encouraging—if lucky—reliability, stability has given way to wobbliness around the national aviation system. And in a coincidence only Agnes Callard could be rooting for, this sudden destabilization figures to coincide with the busiest air travel day of the summer: the TSA expects to screen 2.82 million travelers on Friday, which would surpass the pandemic recovery highwater mark set just earlier this month.

The primary culprit was a piece of energy apparently meandering around the upper atmosphere. Its slow-moving nature combined with ample moisture to antagonize New York City airports from Saturday to Tuesday; with associated convection focused across northern New Jersey, already-disadvantaged Newark (EWR) was especially snarled. 

This proximity no doubt contributed to relatively more challenging conditions at the airfield, where it produced 109 mentions of thunder in EWR METARs. (Across the river, “only” 18 mentions at JFK and 12 at LGA.) But more critically, EWR relies on the airspace above northwestern NJ to a much greater extent for ingress and egress than JFK or LGA. 

Departure tracks from EWR (blue), JFK (grey) and LGA (pink). EWR departures (and arrivals) are more likely to cross N90 boundaries along western fixes than LGA (biased north) or JFK (east). Ignore TEB’s green. (Photo: Improvement of Terminal Area Capacity in the New York Airspace, Donaldson & Hansmen)

This unsettled weather pattern has likewise upset the tenuous relationship between the DOT-led FAA and airlines. Given that United’s New York City franchise leans heavily on EWR, CEO Scott Kirby has seemingly volunteered to command this particular skirmish for airlines.

In a nominally-internal email, Kirby told employees that the FAA had failed them; calculatedly, we’d bet, he would soften his tone towards Administration…

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