WASHINGTON (NewsNation) — A unique blend of factors are conspiring to cause potential turbulence for flyers this summer travel season.
Airlines, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and State Department have all indicated early signals to vacationers that they might need extra patience reaching their destinations.
A shortage of air traffic controllers has caused airlines to cut summer flight schedules, and the TSA predicts there will be a record demand at screening stations.
JetBlue told NewsNation that itis cutting about 40 flights out of LaGuardia Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport in June.
For travelers planning an overseas trip, U.S. passport application backlogs are skyrocketing to their worst in years. According to the State Department, the average time it takes to process a passport is now 10 to 13 weeks — that’s up from six to nine weeks in February.
Some air travelers have already seen what should be small problems — like a technology failure — bring Southwest Airlines departures to a screeching halt on Tuesday.
Adding to the travel troubles, a pilot shortage continues to plague the industry. There is also no resolution yet on a proposal to allow pilots to work past the current mandated retirement age of 65.
The Regional Airline Association president and CEO, the union for Regional Airlines, testified before Congress earlier this week about the dire need to maintain the workforce.
“Today we see stabilization, not recovery,” Faye Malarkey Black, the union’s president, said. “In 15 years we will see half of all pilots retire. Networks use larger aircraft to cope, concentrating service at larger cities while cutting frequencies, markets, and passengers become drivers.”
The union for air traffic controllers said the number of fully certified controllers is the lowest it’s been in 30 years, and there are 1,200 fewer controllers now than a decade ago.
The FAA said they are trying to hire employees as quickly as possible, but the union said it will still be years before it gets better.