The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) is working to minimize potential disruptions over the holidays by implementing contingency plans in advance.
The FAA will plan to use restricted airspace released by the military off the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico for commercial flights “to lessen inland volume and reduce delays during holiday travel,” according to the agency. Commercial flights with departures scheduled “well in advance” will also be prioritized over private jets during incidents of bad weather or airspace congestion.
In addition, the FAA said it has ensured no space launches are scheduled during the busiest times around the Thanksgiving holiday.
The efforts come as the air industry and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) have predicted a record-breaking Thanksgiving and holiday season with 4.7 million travelers expected to fly. It also comes as storms are forecast ahead of Turkey Day, which always have the potential to lead to disruptions.
“This year, we are seeing more people flying than ever with fewer cancellations,” Transportation Sec. Pete Buttigieg said during a news conference on Monday, according to EuroJournal.
Another complication is the ongoing shortage of air traffic controllers, which the FAA has said it is working to address by aiming to hire 1,500 new staff this year and 1,800 next year. Among its initiatives, the agency said it is working with colleges and universities to “ensure that graduates from [Air Traffic-Collegiate Training Initiative] programs have the necessary skills to begin on-the-job training at a facility,” and kicking off a year-round hiring track for experienced controllers from the military and private industries.
Earlier this year, the FAA also approved 169 new and more efficient flight routes along the East Coast in an effort to ease congestion. These are mostly flown above 18,000 feet in altitude and primarily operate along the East Coast and over the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.