NEW YORK — As the busy summer travel season approaches, JetBlue Airways is gearing up to reduce its New York flights following a request from federal regulators for airlines to cut schedules by up to 10% at some of the country's most congested airports. 

"This summer will be challenging once more," 

stated JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes during a speech at the Economic Club of New York on Wednesday. 

"We must decrease our flying and ensure we can manage our existing operations."

The reason behind the flight reductions is a shortage of air traffic controllers, despite JetBlue having hired additional staff and being prepared for the surge in traffic. Without these cuts, congestion would be 45% worse than the previous summer, according to data from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) cited by Hayes. Delta Air Lines and United Airlines Holdings are also planning to reduce flights during the summer to alleviate congestion and delays.

While domestic travel has swiftly recovered from the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the airline industry's capacity has yet to be fully restored, as per Hayes. The FAA confirms that there is a significant shortage of air traffic controllers at the facility serving New York's three primary airports. This shortage in the New York region has a disproportionate effect on the entire US aviation system, as a large number of aircraft either enter the area or pass through the Northeastern United States.

On Wednesday, the FAA held a meeting with airlines, private-plane operators, and the air traffic controllers' union to address flight congestion issues. The agency is currently evaluating feedback from the participants to identify steps to enhance operations in the New York area this summer. Airlines have a deadline of April 30 to indicate which flight slots or times they are willing to temporarily relinquish at airports in Washington and the New York region.