Why mass cancellations of other airlines at Newark impact United passengers

United officials, long frustrated with FAA, says failure to follow scheduling rules has led to chaos

File photo Newark Liberty International Airport will see more United Airlines flights next summer.

United Airlines, which has long been frustrated with the way the Federal Aviation Administration has overlooked the overscheduling of flights out of Newark Liberty Airport, is speaking out on the matter. At least to its global employees.

Following a chaotic weekend during which JetBlue and Spirit Airlines cancelled 16% (or one in six) of their scheduled flights out of Newark due to staffing issues, United’s Chief Operating Officer, Jon Roitman, sent a letter to more than 81,000 United employees worldwide that said the FAA is hampering the carrier’s ability to operate out of Newark, one of United’s hubs.

While United itself did not have to cancel flights, the cancellations of others led to an upheaval for all airlines – something United has been predicting would happen for some time.

The issue: FAA rules limit the airport to 79 flights per hour – but it has continually allowed carriers to over book. Roitman said overscheduling, combined with the rash of cancellations, leads to chaos. That’s why United passengers are impacted by the actions of other airlines, he said.

Here’s how Roitman explained it to United employees:

“As we predicted in a letter last year to the FAA, more flying out of Newark (historically one of the most challenged airports in the country) would result in even more gridlock, delays and cancellations. And unfortunately, United customers would be impacted the most, given the amount of flying we do out of Newark, especially for those connecting to other domestic and international flights.

“For our part, we follow the FAA’s rules and plan our Newark schedules accordingly. But our planning depends on other carriers – so it’s time for them to follow the rules, too. The whiplash caused by JetBlue and Spirit’s operation has resulted in a volatile and unpredictable environment for everyone, ultimately impacting all customers.

“The bottom line is this: it’s well past time for the FAA to step in, enforce their own rules in Newark, bring some order to the operating environment there, and let carriers properly plan their summer schedules and deliver a great experience for customers.”

United officials said the continued failure to properly limit the number of booked flights will impact United’s ability to effectively plan ahead for the summer months – both from a schedule and staffing perspective.

Simply put, when airlines schedule more flights than the airport can handle (at Newark, that’s 79 per hour), every other issue that could cause a delay (weather, staffing, etc.) is magnified and worse for customers.

United officials said they are asking the FAA to level the playing field to ensure that all airlines are operating according to the same rules.

Roitman told United employees that the carrier will keep pushing the FAA to do more.

“United remains in regular touch with the FAA to express our continued concern that the recovery of air travel demand will worsen the gridlock at Newark if they don’t proactively manage congestion there,” he wrote to staffers.

“We’ve recently asked specifically for transparency on approved schedules out of Newark and for the FAA’s procedures to be applied fairly and consistently across all carriers.”

United is one of the state’s ten largest employers. Roitman, in his letter, thanked those employees for their efforts.

“Our team in Newark has overcome an especially difficult set of circumstances, and I want them to know that we’re working hard on their behalf – and on behalf of our customers there – to ensure there is a level playing field from an operational perspective and that carriers like JetBlue and Spirit are held to same standards as United,” he wrote.