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Weather And Staffing Issues Cause Orlando International Airport To Suffer From Hundreds Of Delays

by Staff

Summary

  • Over 1,200 flights were delayed at Orlando International Airport due to storms and staffing issues.
  • Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines, and Delta Air Lines were among the most affected.
  • The Federal Aviation Administration initially cited staffing shortages for delays but later changed it to a
    “traffic management problem.”



Flight operations at Orlando International Airport (MCO) were disrupted over the weekend due to poor weather conditions and alleged staffing shortages. On Saturday and Sunday, more than 1,200 flights were delayed, and more than 20 were canceled.

Thunderstorms moving through the region on Sunday afternoon prompted the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to issue a ground stop. Although the pause was eventually lifted, it created a domino effect of delays to departures.


Nearly 700 delays

According to FlightAware, there were 682 delays as of 23:50 local time on Sunday. Dallas-based Southwest Airlines suffered the most with 174 delays, which was 60% of its scheduled flights at MCO. Ultra-low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines had the second-most, with 104 late flights – more than half of its daily operation at the airport.


Photo: Orlando International Airport

Delta Air Lines came in just behind with 83 delays, about 61% of its operation. Frontier Airlines had 72 delays, equivalent to 46% of its operation, while American Airlines and JetBlue Airways each experienced 64 delayed flights. United Airlines had 44 late flights.

The National Weather Service advised the Orlando area that strong thunderstorms would be moving through the area and could produce hail and winds of up to 40 miles per hour.

“Planes just backed up”

All flights were paused from 16:23 to 18:00 as the FAA implemented a ground stop due to severe weather, according to Orlando local NBC affiliate WESH. Once it was lifted, a ground delay was still in effect, which resulted in departures being reportedly delayed by an average of 68 minutes. However, earlier on Sunday, the FAA’s airspace system status cited staffing issues for the ground stop and ground delay.


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One passenger on one of the delayed flights said several planes were holding on the tarmac, according to WESH.

“We sat out there for about an hour, an hour 15 minutes. There was lots of traffic on the runway out there, planes just backed up.”

An Aircraft flying in what appears to be bad weather.

Photo: Jaromir Chalabala | Shutterstock

There were 22 cancelations on Sunday, according to FlightAware. Spirit had 12, Frontier had five, United had two, and Breeze Airways had one. Overall, the flight disruptions were a backtrack from Saturday, as there were only three cancelations and 550 delays. Combining both days, MCO experienced 25 canceled flights and 1,232 delays.


Later on Sunday, the FAA updated its system and removed staffing issues from its status. It was revised to cite “a traffic management problem,” according to ClickOrlando.com.

ATC staffing shortages

With air traffic control (ATC) shortages being a prevalent and widespread issue, it is unclear why the agency updated its status. Last year, the FAA hired 1,500 controllers and expects to bring on 1,800 more this year. Mike Whitaker, the agency’s administrator, said last week that the next hiring window will open next month.

“We’re hiring air traffic controllers. We’re about to open a new window for hiring beginning on April 19th, and we encourage all of you to apply. These are terrific jobs.”

Whitaker said the FAA will hold pre-employment processing events in New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Fort Worth, Texas, to “help applicants get through the paperwork.” Selected candidates will train at the agency’s ATC academy in Oklahoma City.


“So tell all your friends and come join us at the FAA,” Whitaker explained.

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