- United Airlines is cutting 50 domestic departures from its Newark Liberty International Airport hub.
- The carrier said the adjustment is to improve on-time performance and make flying through Newark easier.
- The cuts are not because the carrier has a shortage of planes or pilots, according to United.
United Airlines is trying to make flying through Newark Liberty International Airport a little easier for travelers.
On Thursday, United’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, Jon Roitman, sent a memo to employees saying the company is cutting 50 domestic departures per day at Newark, or about 12% of its schedule. None of the flights are market exits, just reduced frequencies, according to the memo, which Insider has viewed.
United worked with the Federal Aviation Administration to get a waiver that allows the carrier to “temporarily adjust” its flight schedule so it can improve on-time performance for its customers and everyone flying through Newark. United is the airport’s largest carrier.
“As we’ve talked about, our recovery plan has been to only sell a schedule we could fly and put customers first, even if that meant sacrificing some short-term revenue,” Roitman said.
Roitman explained the changes will go into effect on July 1, and emphasized in the memo that the disruptions will not extend to other United hubs. He also said the reductions are not due to staffing at United, and the carrier has enough planes and pilots to fly the schedule, but the cuts are necessary to minimize delays.
The decision comes after weeks of irregular operations that have resulted in hundreds of delays and cancellations at the airport, Roitman said. United CEO Scott Kirby told Bloomberg in an interview that air traffic control staffing at Newark was a driving factor causing disruptions.
“We have had weekends recently where [ATC] is under 50% staffing and the controllers are working their tails off to be successful,” he said. “But, when you’re at 50% staff with 89 operations in schedule and they had us on a perfectly blue sky day at 36 operations per hour, it is a nightmare for customers, for employees, for the airlines.”
Newark is also having problems because there are more flights scheduled than the airport can manage, Kirby said in an interview with CNN. This, mixed with understaffing at air traffic centers, is a recipe for delays and cancellations.
United is not the only airline adjusting its network. Earlier this year, carriers like JetBlue Airways and Alaska Airlines announced flight cuts this summer to create more wiggle room during disruptions.
Despite the cuts, the industry is still struggling to keep things moving, particularly during major holidays. Both Memorial Day and Juneteenth weekends proved to be chaos, with thousands of flights delayed or canceled.
Henry Harteveldt, travel analyst and president of Atmosphere Research Group, told Insider that if things don’t improve, the government may need to get involved to “make sure the industry is serving its customers fairly.”
On Saturday, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told the Associated Press that there may be consequences for airline flight disruptions, and asked carriers to “stress-test” their operation to ensure they can operate as planned.