FAA warns of impacts to air travel during Great North American Eclipse

The Federal Aviation Administration is warning travelers and pilots the total solar eclipse in April could snarl air traffic, especially at airports located in what is known as the path of totality.

The FAA posted what it called "special air traffic procedures" on its website Thursday that listed the possible impacts on the industry and what airports could be subject to operational changes.

Hundreds of airports are either located in the path totality or are close enough in proximity to service aviators interested in the phenomenon.

The bulletin includes major airports such as Dallas-Fort Worth International, Indianapolis International and Cleveland International.

Starting before noon on April 8, the Moon will completely block the Sun for several minutes, leading to temporary darkness that will begin over Texas and travel over 15 states.

FILE - The moon moves in front of the sun during an eclipse Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023, at the Wings Over Houston Airshow in Houston.  (Jon Shapley/Houston Chronicle via Getty Images)

All of the Lower 48 will be subject to a partial event, but communities that are under what space experts call the umbra will have prime viewing of the narrow path of totality.

More than 30 million Americans are estimated to live in the path, with millions more expected to travel to states such as Texas, Ohio and New York to see the spectacle.


The event is similar to an eclipse that happened back in 2017, when the Sun was temporarily shielded by the Moon from coast to coast.

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association reported air traffic during the previous event increased 20-40% at control centers that were in range of the path of totality.

The association said Indianapolis Center saw a 36% increase, its Seattle Center reported an uptick of 33% and Kansas City saw a 35% jump when compared to typical workday traffic.

While commercial traffic stays within a manageable range, air traffic controllers said the addition of civilian aircraft causes numbers to exceed holiday traffic volumes.

The combination of any type of weather systems on top of the increased traffic can lead to significant delays, like what happened to Chicago’s main airports during the event nearly seven years ago.

This graphic shows the best cities in the path of totality during the total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024. (FOX Weather)


The FAA warns pilots that special restrictions may also be issued three to five days ahead of the event.

Neither the FAA nor the Transportation Security Administration have released specific guidance for passengers ahead of the eclipse, but as a general recommendation, airlines always suggest arriving at the airport at least two hours before departure.

Some airlines, such as Delta and Southwest, have offered special flights designated to view the path of totality from around 30,000 feet, but deals lasted only a few hours before selling out.

One of the last communities in the continental U.S. to see the path of totality will be Houlton, Maine, where the entire event will be over by 5 p.m. EDT.

Read more on FOX Weather.