Just in time for summer: FAA announces new, more efficient East Coast routes

The Federal Aviation Administration has warned that this summer could be dicey along the East Coast thanks to staffing issues, but the agency just took a big step to alleviate some of those concerns without having to train a whole new slate of air traffic controllers.

On Monday, the agency said it was opening almost 170 new air traffic routes while simultaneously retiring older aerial tracks that were less efficient and harder to manage.

“These significant improvements to our national airspace system are just in time for summer and will help travelers get to their destinations more efficiently,” Tim Arel, the chief operating officer of the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization, said in a statement. “The new routes will reduce complexity and redistribute volume across all available airspace.”

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According to the FAA, the new routing options are more direct than the existing paths that aircraft typically use, and are expected to save 40,000 travel miles and approximately 6,000 minutes in the air for planes traversing the Eastern seaboard every year. 

That also means the changes will reduce fuel burn. Industry experts have long said that sustainable aviation fuel is the key to greener flying, but incremental changes to routing can also provide a climate-friendly boost. 

The older routes the FAA phased out were less efficient in part because they relied on ground-based radar for airplane tracking, requiring aircraft to take less direct paths between points. The new routes use updated GPS technology instead, which allows for more straight-line flying.

The FAA said that the new routes will also give air traffic controllers more flexibility to reroute planes in the event of bad weather.

Zach Wichter is a travel reporter and columnistfor USA TODAY based in New York. You can reach him at zwichter@usatoday.com