WASHINGTON — The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced on Monday the activation of 169 additional direct routes along the U.S. East Coast in preparation for the busy summer travel season. These direct routes are estimated to save 40,000 miles and 6,000 minutes of travel time annually. 

The new routes will predominantly operate above 18,000 feet in altitude along the East Coast, as well as offshore over the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.

The FAA has phased out legacy routes, which relied heavily on ground-based radar instead of GPS. In an effort to minimize disruption to commercial air travel and provide equitable access to airspace near launch sites, the FAA may delay some space launches. Space launches have often caused air schedule complications, particularly in the congested Florida airspace. Officials are concerned about a potential repeat of last summer's air travel issues, when over 50,000 flights were canceled in the U.S. and hundreds of thousands were delayed due to rising demand and staffing shortages in airlines and flight control.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg suggested last year that airlines could alleviate congestion at Florida airports by equipping their planes to fly over water along underutilized routes. In March, the FAA approved requests by Delta Air Lines and United Airlines to temporarily return up to 10% of slots and flight timings this summer at congested New York area airports and Washington National, attributing the decision to air traffic controller shortages for flights.

The FAA said this decision will allow airlines to reduce operations during the peak summer travel period, which may be worsened by the effects of air traffic controller staffing shortfalls. The FAA noted that staffing at the New York Terminal Radar Approach Control remains below target levels, with 41,498 flights from New York airports experiencing delays last summer due to air traffic control staffing as a contributing factor.