Just about everyone has had the guilty pleasure of reading a Florida Man story – the craziness can be just….wow. I know I have, and heck, I LIVE here! But y’all, that ain’t NUTHIN’ in comparison to the craziness of the flight delays pretty much the whole state of Florida has been having for the past several months.
For much of the pandemic, things were actually pretty good, aviation-wise. People were being cautious and not traveling. The skies were pretty open. So those who did fly into or out of The Sunshine State had smooth sailing, with flights generally on time.
But then things started happening – people got their COVID vaccines and were becoming more interested in traveling again. Previously popular vacation destinations, like Orlando, Ft. Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Key West, etc., were on the “first place to visit” list of millions of people, so airlines increased as many flights as they could to Florida (for example, compared to 2019, flight service to Miami is up 113%, to Tampa is 107%, and West Palm Beach is up 132%). On top of that, the use of private jets has increased because the people who could afford such things wanted to avoid “The ‘Rona” (thanks, Normy!) on packed commercial planes. AND requests to have space launches out of Cape Canaveral have increased steadily every year since 2020.
So what’s happened? Florida has seen a HUGE uptick in, essentially, aviation gridlock. Besides all the flights going in and out of the state that weren’t there a few years ago, remember that when a rocket is scheduled to go out of Cape Canaveral, there are all kinds of no-fly zones enacted.
And on top of all of that, don’t forget that Florida has some WICKED weather sometimes. We’re not the lightning capital of the U.S. for nuthin’. And it’s the worst in the summertime, which will begin in just a few weeks. Once the summer weather patterns start, we have near-monsoons for about 15-20 minutes nearly every afternoon. Here’s why that happens, BTW, if you were curious.
So we’ve got more planes than we know what to do with (and still an overall shortage of airline/airport staff), plus rocket ships, plus deluges. Oh, and the military has been doing more air training in Florida, as well, which means even more airspace closures.
And people wonder why the state’s flight delays are getting worse and worse.
Welp, last week, the FAA and airline representatives from both commercial and private airlines met in Florida to discuss the surge in the state’s flight disruptions. This came about partially because several airlines (*cough* executives from JetBlue, Frontier and Southwest *cough*) were blaming air traffic control (ATC) short staffing as part of the overall problem.
Anyway, the FAA said on Wednesday that it will “immediately” look at increasing the number of staff at a major air traffic control center in Florida. The hope is that it will help handle airlines’ surging numbers of flights to the Sunshine State after passengers faced thousands of flight cancellations and delays earlier in the year.
“Because representatives said Florida operations will continue increasing past 2019 levels, the FAA will immediately increase the number of authorized staff at Jacksonville Center and evaluate other Florida facilities,” the agency said in a statement.
The FAA also promised to share more information with carriers about space launches and military exercises, since both wind up causing airspace closures. The agency also said it would also help airlines come up with alternative altitudes, such as flying under weather systems, to help keep traffic moving.
“The agency will also work with stakeholders to develop a playbook to keep aircraft moving safely when weather, space launches or other events constrain capacity,” the FAA said. “The FAA will increase the ability for airlines to keep aircraft moving during these events by using alternate routes and altitudes when possible.”
Meetings between the FAA and airlines will continue throughout the summer so operations in Florida can continue to run more smoothly.
This Floridian with several flights planned for the rest of 2022 is very grateful.
Feature photo: Pixabay
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