Travelers dread Florida airspace issues

(BPT) - Many fliers are seeing firsthand a worrisome trend in the air - travel delays and cancellations to numerous cities across south Florida, fueled by growing competition for limited space where airlines are forced to contend with general aviation (i.e. private aircraft) and frequent space launch activities over the Atlantic Ocean.

The problem itself is primarily rooted in how air traffic is regulated, as aircraft no matter the size or number of passengers are weighed on a first-come, first-served basis. This leaves commercial airlines increasingly drawing the short straw in the resulting struggle.

'With consumers buffeted by countless forces over the past several years, the last thing they need is to wonder if they can arrive at their intended travel destination,' said Dee Stewart, president of the Center for Innovation and Free Enterprise. 'The federal government needs to keep all options on the table to help alleviate the situation.'

Over the past several years, with the effects of COVID-19 notwithstanding, Florida has remained one of the most popular spots for leisure and business travelers. Emblematic of this trend, in the first quarter of 2022 alone the state welcomed approximately 36 million visitors. While many of these arrive on commercial flights, private aviation has seen incredible growth with Florida now becoming the busiest state for private jet travel in the U.S.

While general aviation has steadily expanded, space businesses have not rested on their laurels. The Space Coast has seen more activity in the last months than it has in decades. And with each launch, the federal government closes not only the area surrounding the path of the rocket, but for hundreds of miles to ensure any possible debris will be far from the routes aircraft are flying.

Between the two competing entities and their outsized impact on commercial flights, the extra traffic has brought with it additional headaches for consumers and business owners who rely on a constant flow of tourists, particularly during the spring and summer months when Florida's beaches beckon potential visitors.

Along with the infamously fickle Florida weather, what has this meant for the average flier? Simply put, more time waiting in airports or rescheduling plans. Consumers have been forced to prepare to run what has steadily become an insurmountable aerial blockade each time they book a flight to the region.

The government - including the Federal Aviation Administration and National Aeronautics and Space Administration - have also seen a deluge of headlines, especially locally, on the growing difficulties experienced by travelers, and could be examining potential measures to relieve some of the acute pain they are now feeling. With no end currently in sight, it could be possible that, for the foreseeable future if recent trends hold, fliers should continue to expect the unexpected and build in contingencies to their travel itineraries.

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