Are Private Planes Creating Problems For Commercial Flights?

By Spyros Georgilidakis | December 30, 2023

Are flights of business jets and smaller private planes affecting the world of commercial aviation? Many airlines in the U.S. think so.

Christmas is behind us already, but people around the world aren’t done traveling for the holidays. But at least in the United States, many in the airline world are already breathing a cautious sigh of relief.

Are Private Planes Creating Problems For Commercial Flights?
Photo: Werner Lehmann, CC BY-SA 2.0

There have been disruptions, with flight delays and some cancelations. But nothing close to what we saw with Southwest twelve months ago. Cancelations this year only affected 1% of flights in the U.S. That’s still 1,100 flights. For reference, last year Southwest canceled 16,900 flights in 10 days.

We have looked at how Southwest’s scheduling software and other issues contributed to last year’s meltdown, and what the airline has done since. Air traffic control shortages are another common cause of disruptions, that airlines may have to plan for.

Photo: Denisse Leon

Private Planes Vs Commercial Jets?

However, U.S. airlines are citing another key factor: private planes. General aviation has grown considerably in many parts of the country since 2020. Air traffic control has to handle all aviation traffic, including private and corporate aircraft, as well as commercial planes.

Are Private Planes Creating Problems For Commercial Flights?
Photo: Chris Leipelt

So, the shortages in ATC staffing are one side of the equation, with increased use of private planes being the other. This is the opinion of Airlines for America, who sent a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg about the issue.

Airlines for America is a group that represents American, Delta, Southwest, and United Airlines, among others. When it comes to ATC, the group has asked for “…all possible steps be taken to avert additional staffing triggers, particularly in high-volume centers”.

Photo: Textron Aviation

However, the group is also pointing the finger at smaller planes, asking for “ appropriate balance between commercial and private aviation traffic, with the goal of minimizing delays and cancelations for the traveling public”.



  • Michal (Thattrainandbusguy)

    I think that private planes should maybe have a bigger fee than commercial airliners

  • I believe that this problem is not related to general aviation except in major air traffic in large hubs. General aviation tends to fly VFR below TCA restricted airspace or in special VFR corridors.

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