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Air traffic controller shortages remain on minds of many during July 4 holiday getaway

Travel headaches continue at Newark Liberty International Airport
Travel headaches continue at Newark Liberty International Airport 01:45

NEWARK, N.J. -- The Federal Aviation Administration said problems continued Tuesday at Newark Liberty International Airport after air traffic controller staffing issues led to several delays on Monday night.

With a busy holiday travel week ahead, some passengers are concerned about what could happen when they go to the airport and what the agency plans to do about it.

Staffing-related delays could continue for some time

Officials say there is a shortage of about 3,000 air traffic controllers nationwide. At Newark Liberty, the staffing is 59% below the target level, despite numerous incentives and hiring campaigns.

"We're going to see staffing-related delays throughout the rest of this summer," said Peter Greenberg, CBS News' travel editor.

Greenberg said passengers should be prepared for disruptions.

"As you're getting close to holiday period a lot of people are taking vacation, so that drops the staffing levels even lower at a time of peak travel," Greenberg said.

NYC-area airports often get the worst of it

When the FAA has to significantly slow traffic into an airport due to controller staffing, it's called a staffing trigger. The agency's inspector general tallied 170 staffing triggers in the New York area between August of 2021 and August of 2022.

The FAA said staffing-related delays are rare across the country, accounting for less than 1% of all flight delays, but the New York area has been hit especially hard by the shortages as it is home to one of the most complex airspaces.

Back in May, CBS New York Investigates explored the FAA's new partnership with local colleges to try to improve training and retain new hires. In another attempt to address staffing issues, the agency also plans to move 17 controllers from New York and have them cover Newark's airspace from Philadelphia.

However, lawmakers and the controller's union have been fighting the move.

"You have this perfect storm of increased demand and not enough controllers, that translates to delays and cancellations," Greenberg said.

Passengers wary of this week's holiday getaway

The FAA said the delays at Newark Liberty on Monday and Tuesday were needed to keep passengers safe. However, passengers told CBS New York they aren't getting their hopes up too high for smooth travel.

"I'm actually traveling with a group. There's 48 of us so we are terrified that there's going to be delays," said Christina Mortimer, who was traveling out of Newark Liberty. "It's gonna stink if we're stuck on the tarmac or something, waiting to take off because there's delays."

"I want to get off safely. I want to land safely," passenger Peter Vincent added.

"We were supposed to leave Naples yesterday. We were pushed back a day and we are hoping to get to Pittsburgh tonight," Karlie Masterson said.

Masterson and her partner had 30 minutes until take off.

"We are just looking to get home. It has been a long travel," Giovanni Monteleone said.

The FAA says weather is the cause of most flight disruptions. And one thing to keep in mind if you're traveling on Friday and Saturday: there is the potential for storms in the forecast.  

Check your flight status

Travelers should check with their airlines for individual flight information.

Use the following links for local airports:

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