FAA Targets New Hourly Scheduling Limits For Newark

United Boeing 737-800
Credit: Joe Pries

Following an extension of slot waivers at New York-area airports, the FAA is adjusting targeted hourly scheduling limits at Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) to better align with the airport’s capacity.  

Both measures, which FAA describes as “adjacent but not connected,” are aimed at easing congestion, a challenge exacerbated by air traffic control (ATC) staffing shortages particularly acute at the New York Terminal Radar Approach Control facility N90. Currently, voluntary targeted scheduling limits at EWR are 79 operations per hour and 43 operations per half hour. 

“Even with the current targeted scheduling limits, on-time performance at EWR is among the worst in the nation,” FAA writes in a notice published Sept. 20. “Since 2018, EWR has had the largest number of Ground Delay Programs (GDPs), the largest number of late arriving aircraft due to GDPs, and the lowest on-time arrival rate among the Core 30 airports.”

FAA says it is reducing the targeted scheduling limit for March-October 2024 to 77 operations per hour and 42 operations per half hour, to help manage demand.

The changes come after FAA analysis of Aviation System Performance Metrics data from January 2022-July 2023 found “a significant imbalance” between scheduled and actual runway operations. Schedules during certain hours of the day were found to reach as many as 88 operations per hour, the agency said, noting “This imbalance in schedules and actual throughput results in congestion which, in turn, results in chronic delays and cancellations.”

FAA anticipates an alignment based on actual runway operations will help prevent delays and optimize use of the airport’s resources, noting that it is “seeking carriers’ voluntary cooperation to get scheduled operations down to the new targeted scheduling limits.”

Carriers including United Airlines and JetBlue Airways have called for more action to address ATC issues. For JetBlue, though the ramifications of a 10% reduction on NY-area summer capacity were “significant,” CEO Robin Hayes has said the amount “was just not enough.” United, which uses EWR as one of its major hubs, has indicated a need to be more conservative on scheduling at the airport, following significant summer disruptions. 

“The reality is, Newark has more flights scheduled than the physical infrastructure can handle,” CEO Scott Kirby said in July. “We’ve simply passed the infrastructure.”

Christine Boynton

Christine Boynton is a Senior Editor covering air transport in the Americas for Aviation Week Network.