United to cut 50 flights a day from Newark

Biggest carrier at airport says it’s voluntarily making reduction in effort to reduce daily backlog of flights caused by staffing issues

United Airlines announced Thursday it is proactively removing 50 daily departures from its Newark Liberty International Airport schedule — not because the airline can’t handle it, but rather, the airport cannot, CEO Scott Kirby said.

The airline did not say which flights would be cancelled, but it did say it would not result in the airline abandoning a certain city — just that it will fly to many cities in a reduced capacity.

How reduced: United officials said the 50 flights represents about 12% (or 1 in 8) of the airline’s departures out of Newark, starting July 1. The flights are all domestic routes.

United has, by far, the most flights out of Newark on a daily basis. And Kirby said the airline has enough personnel to maintain the full schedule. But it is hoping the reduction will minimize delays and improve on-time performance of all airlines flying out of Newark.

It’s hard to imagine it could get any worse.

Air travel throughout the U.S. has been challenging since a post-pandemic travel boom forced airlines — and airports — to attempt to return to their normal schedule while dealing with fewer people.

Kirby, who has repeatedly blamed the Federal Aviation Administration this summer for allowing too many flights to be booked out of Newark, has apparently taken it upon himself to reduce the outgoing flight total.

Doing so also helps with another key issue: staffing problems in control towers.

Kirby, in an interview with Bloomberg on Thursday, said there have been weekends in Newark where staffing has been under 50% of where it should be. It has been a reason, he said, for cancellations and excessive delays at times when the weather is perfect.

Kirby told Bloomberg that better scheduling remains a key to alleviating the issue.

“We can’t put 10 pounds into a 5-pound bag,” he said.