New York City area airports resume flights after brief halt as coronavirus causes staffing issues

Key Points
  • Flights into New York City-area and Philadelphia airports were briefly halted due to coronavirus staffing issues.
  • A trainee air traffic controller at a facility on Long Island tested positive for the disease, the FAA said.
  • Coronavirus forced the FAA to shift tasks to backup facilities after cases were discovered at Las Vegas and at Chicago's Midway International Airport earlier this week.
Two JetBlue planes sit at the John F. Kennedy Airport in New York on March 13, 2020. in New York City. President Donald Trump cancels all flights between Europe and the United States this Friday, due to the expansion of the Covid-19.
Pablo Monslave | Getty Images

Flights into major New York City-area airports were briefly halted on Saturday, as the coronavirus continues to cause staffing issues at air-traffic control facilities around the country,  the Federal Aviation Administration said.

An air traffic controller-trainee based at a control center on Long Island tested positive for the virus, COVID-19, the FAA said. The trainee hadn't been in the facility since March 17 but the agency is working with local health authorities to sanitize and clean affected areas. The center is operational, it said.

Flights were delayed or canceled after FAA closed other air traffic-control facilities around the country, including towers at Chicago's Midway International Airport and McCarren International Airport, after technicians and others tested positive for the virus.

"The FAA is working with local health officials and employee representatives to determine how many personnel might have interacted with the trainee in recent days," the FAA said regarding the New York case. 

Airlines are reeling from the pandemic as travelers cancel trips at twice the pace that new bookings are coming in.  Carriers have slashed their flying to match crumbling demand and have warned lawmakers that thousands of workers could be furloughed if Congress doesn't quickly approve an aid package for the ailing industry.

More than 24,000 cases of the coronavirus have been detected so far in the in the U.S.