John Wayne Airport cuts seat capacity to stay within passenger cap

John Wayne Airport staff is requiring airlines to reduce their flight capacity amid a busy holiday season to stay within its 11.8 million annual passenger cap.

By the end of October, the airport had served 9.9 million passengers. With a little over a month left in 2023, John Wayne Airport is at risk of exceeding its annual passenger limitation and falling out of compliance with a 1985 agreement between Orange County, Newport Beach and community organizations Airport Working Group and Stop Polluting Our Newport. The settlement created several rules for the airport, including noise limits and an annual passenger cap.

The agreement caps annual passengers at 11.8 million, leaving the airport to divide the number of available seats to its airlines. Airlines report how many of those seats they fill through the year, and empty seats mean additional capacity that can be added to other flights as long as the airport is still under the passenger cap.

As the economy has fluctuated and travel returned in full force, John Wayne Airport Director Charlene Reynolds said airlines were asked in late August and early September, when staff first noticed the number of passengers was at risk of exceeding the cap, to voluntarily return seats — but those returns weren’t enough.

With projections for the holiday travel season, the airport was at risk of going 50,000 to 75,000 passengers over the limit by December. If the airport were to surpass the passenger limit, the issue would be taken up to court.

“Once we got the October numbers, we’re still in a position that we could exceed the 11.8 (million), so therefore it was my recommendation that we implement a mandatory (return),” Reynolds said during a Nov. 7 Board of Supervisors meeting. “Those airlines that have already voluntarily given back seat capacity, they won’t be impacted as much because we would credit them. Those that gave a little, but not what we requested, it will impact them.”

“People want to fly. It correlates to jobs and a strong economy, but we have this settlement agreement in which we must comply.”

Air travel throughout the U.S. has significantly exceeded expectations, according to the staff report included with the Nov. 7 item. John Wayne Airport is seeing record numbers of passengers and higher-than-expected seats being filled.

“The current situation, created by a historic surge in passenger numbers and concerns about approaching the MAP (million annual passenger) limit, is unique to the ongoing recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and has not been experienced before,” AnnaSophia Servin, airport spokesperson, said in an email. “Before the COVID-19 pandemic, travel cycles and airline projections historically followed a more predictable pattern.”

Servin says this is a “unique” situation due to the ongoing recovery from the pandemic.

However, in 2019, Southwest Airlines curtailed its service at John Wayne Airport, part of a three-year reduction because the airline was allocated fewer seats by the airport to keep in line with the passenger cap. (Then, the annual cap was 10.8 million passengers; it was bumped up by 1 million at the end of 2020.)

This time around, the hope is that flights won’t have to be outright canceled during the bustling holiday season.

“Airlines are responsible for the method used to adjust plans to stay within capacity limits. These measures are focused on minimizing the number of cancellations through the end of the year,” Servin said.

Fifth District Supervisor Katrina Foley said it has been a really robust year for travel at John Wayne Airport.

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register

Ground Stop on US flights Lifted After System Failure Prompts FAA to Order Pause on Departures

The affected system sends flight hazards and real time restrictions to pilots.

The ground stop and Federal Aviation Administration systems failures Wednesday morning that impacted thousands of flights across the U.S. appear to have been the result of a mistake that occurred during routine scheduled systems maintenance, according to a senior official briefed on the internal review.

An engineer “replaced one file with another,” the official said, not realizing the mistake was being made. As the systems began showing problems and ultimately failed, FAA staff feverishly tried to figure out what had gone wrong. The engineer who made the error did not realize what had happened.

“It was an honest mistake that cost the country millions,” the official said.

Earlier Wednesday, the FAA said normal operations were “resuming gradually” after ordering a nationwide pause on all domestic departures until 9 a.m. on Wednesday morning following a computer failure that has delayed and canceled flights around the country.

“The ground stop has been lifted,” officials said at about 8:50 a.m. ET. “We continue to look into the cause of the initial problem[.]”

Departures were resuming at about 8:15 a.m. ET at two of the nation’s busiest hubs — Newark, New Jersey, and Atlanta — FAA officials said on Twitter, adding, “We expect departures to resume at other airports at 9 a.m. ET.”

The affected Notice To all Air Missions, or NOTAM, system is responsible for sending out flight hazards and real time restrictions to pilots, administration officials said earlier.

“The FAA is still working to fully restore the Notice to Air Missions system following an outage,” said the FAA announcing the temporary grounding of all planes nationwide. “The FAA has ordered airlines to pause all domestic departures until 9 a.m. Eastern Time to allow the agency to validate the integrity of flight and safety information.”

Had the FAA’s new NOTAM system been in place, redundancies would likely have stopped the cascading failures. With the antiquated system in place, there was nothing to stop the outages, the official told ABC News.

“At this time, there is no evidence of a cyberattack. The FAA is working diligently to further pinpoint the causes of this issue and take all needed steps to prevent this kind of disruption from happening again,” the FAA said in a statement Wednesday night.

There were still more than 7,300 delays and 1,100 cancellations midday, according to tracking website Flight Aware.

Failures likely due to ‘glitch’

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said a full investigation is necessary to prevent any future mishaps.

“When there’s an issue in the FAA that needs to be looked at, we’re gonna own it, same way we asked the airlines to own their companies and operations,” Buttigieg said during an appearance on CNN Wednesday.

Congressional hearings are expected as is a possible speed-up of system replacement.

On what caused the system meltdown, Buttigieg said that overnight there “was an issue with irregularities in the messages that were going out” — though more needs to be learned on what led to the widespread failure.

MORE: What is NOTAM, the FAA computer system that halted all US flights?

Now we have to understand how this could have happened in the first place. Why the usual redundancies that would stop it from being that disrupted, did not stop it from being disrupted this time, and what the original source of the errors or the corrupted files would have been,” he said.

A senior official briefed on the FAA computer problems told ABC News the software issue developed late last night and led to a “cascading” series of IT failures culminating in this morning’s disruption. As has been reported, the disruption is confined to the commercial side of aviation.

As of now, the assessment is the failures are the result of a “glitch” and not something intentional. All possibilities are being looked at to ensure that the FAA systems were not breached.

The FAA first reported the system failure on Tuesday, according to an internal memo from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency obtained by ABC News.

Notably, the FAA system that failed is overdue for replacement.

The official compared the current outage to the crisis that crippled Southwest Airlines during the holidays: antiquated software overdue for replacement inside a critical IT network. If one thing goes down, the system can become paralyzed.

Click here to read the full article at ABC 7

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