Federal authorities promise to add air traffic controllers and take other steps to improve the flow of planes in Florida, which airlines say has become a weak link in the national airspace.
The Federal Aviation Administration said Wednesday it would add staff at a key air traffic control center in Jacksonville and elsewhere, though it did not provide numbers.
The promise came during a two-day meeting between FAA officials and representatives from a dozen airlines. Airlines have told the FAA that the number of flights in Florida will exceed 2019 levels.
Air traffic to Florida has resumed faster during the pandemic than many other places, and airlines have scheduled even more flights for this summer. This raises concerns about the potential for massive disruption that could spread far beyond state borders.
The FAA said it also agreed to notify airlines more often of space launches and other events that could squeeze routes using airlines over Florida. Airlines say they have been caught off guard by route closures, forcing them to cancel flights.
More remarkably, Southwest Airlines blamed bad weather and Florida air traffic control for cascading problems that led it to cancel more than 2,000 flights over three days last October. JetBlue Airways blamed these and other factors for widespread cancellations last month.
The FAA said it would make more use of alternate routes — sometimes at lower altitudes, which would increase fuel consumption — to keep planes moving after disruptions. The agency said it would also develop a plan to respond to growls, similar to what it is doing in the New York area.