By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Delta Air Lines can temporarily cut some flights at New York's LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy airports and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said on Friday.
The FAA said as a condition of approval that Delta "should offer customers a refund or rebook them on Delta or another carrier as needed for canceled flights at the three airports."
Delta had asked the FAA to waive minimum slot requirements at the congested airports because of issues including New York airport construction, significant crew sick time, severe weather and air traffic control delays and cancellations.
The FAA said the approval "will support Delta’s steps to make schedule adjustments and staff assignments to increase the reliability of its operations and minimize disruptions to travelers."
The relief covers flights June 1 through Sept. 5. Airlines can lose their slots at some congested airports if they do not use them at least 80% of the time.
Delta said in a statement the FAA approval "will allow us to continue improving shared challenges and service reliability with minimal impact to customers."
An airline spokeswoman declined to say how many flights were covered by the waiver.
The FAA disclosed in May that Delta pilots missed 19,985 days due to sickness, up 45% from 13,786 days in May 2019. In June, pilot sick days rose 50% from June 2019. Delta also reported in May its flight attendants missed 43,908 days due to sickness, up 23%, the FAA said.
"Delta stated that due to the unforeseen spike, its workforce and flight operations are under extraordinary strain, leaving little margin for operational challenges caused by construction, ATC delays, and weather," the FAA said.
The FAA said its "preference is for Delta to reduce flights from sale to minimize disruptive, close-in cancellations."
In May, Delta said it would cut flights through August to improve operational reliability amid soaring travel demand. Delta said from July 1 through Aug 7 it would cut about 100 daily departures, primarily in U.S. and Latin America markets.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Leslie Adler, David Gregorio and Tom Hogue)