New faster high-altitude routes along the US east coast have been added by the FAA to save on fuel and time and add on overall airline profitability. The high-altitude routes or corridors were rolled out on May 1 2023 ahead of the northern hemisphere’s busy summer holidays. The older more irregular routes are being abandoned. Below are diagrams of the old routes and the new faster high-altitude routes which have replaced them.
The FAA adds that these significant additions of faster high-altitude routes to the national airspace system will assist travelers in getting to their destinations more efficiently according to Tim Arel, chief operations officer of FAA’s air traffic organization. Complexity will be reduced and volume redistributed across available airspace more evenly with the incorporation of these faster high-altitude routes.
According to FAA, the shorter direct routes most of which operate above 18000 MSL will reduce flight distance by 40000 miles and flight time by 6000 minutes of traveling each year. These faster high-altitude routes are along the East Coast and offshore over the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.
The new faster high-altitude routes or ‘highways in the sky’ are based on GPS navigation and took seven years to develop. and implement, according to the FAA.
This development helps prevent delays by giving the regulator more capacity to direct traffic to more specific faster high-altitude routes based on their destinations.
When there is weather occurrence, controllers will have more flexibility..due to fewer converging points and more simple flows. As a result of these faster high-altitude routes, safety will be enhanced According to the FAA, so far this year, inclement weather has accounted for more than half of flight delays across the national airspace system. The upcoming summer months are often the busiest in terms of air travel in the US and the industry expects another banner year especially due to the pent-up demand after the Covid lockdown. That’s why these new faster high-altitude routes have come at the right time to ease these expected flight delays
However, airlines, airports, and air traffic control authorities have been struggling with staff shortages as well as supply chain issues in recent months. Unpredictable weather during summer also contributes to disruptions in the aviation system during this period. These faster high-altitude routes will alleviate this tripple problems of staff shortages, unpredictable weather and supply chain issues.
Last month, the FAA took the unusual step of allowing airlines to temporarily vacate their allocated landing and takeoff slots at major hubs in the North East USA due to ATC staff shortages. The regulator hopes to thereby reduce the overall volume of traffic in the region and in turn possible widespread delays and cancellations. The new faster high-altitude routes will come in handy to solve this problem of ATC staff shortages without having to raise the staff levels while allowing the airlines to maintain their landing and take off slots at major hubs in the North East USA.
Airlines must typically be assigned slots at traffic-restricted airports most of the time. During the global covid-19 pandemic, when air traffic dropped sharply as a result of restrictions, aviation regulators relaxed such requirements allowing airlines to maintain such slots without much long-term penalty.The new faster high-altitude routes will ensure the summer busy traffic does not lead to new restrictions.
United Airlines, Jet blue airlines, and others with big operations in the region have taken advantage of this program and trimmed their schedules accordingly. The availability of the new faster high-altitude routes will allow these airlines to keep their schedules while maintaining such slots without much penalty nor compromise in safety in this expected busy summer period.