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FAA Proposes Extension of Slot Relief
On Sept. 11, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that it would propose an extension for relief of flight requirements at slot restricted airports. The current relief of the minimum flight requirements is due to expire in October, and the extension would last until March 2021.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, demand is not sufficient for airlines to meet the minimum flight requirement to hold onto their slots. The move is supported by major airlines, which are seeing a record drop in demand.
The extension of the waiver will apply to New York’s LaGuardia and John F. Kenedy International Airports, and Ronald Regan Washington National Airport. Before the pandemic began, airlines would have to utilize a slot 80% of the time or risk it being forfeited to the FAA. Airport slots are highly valuable and sought after by airlines. At slot restricted airports, airlines cannot operate flights to the airport or during certain time periods without a valid slot.
Four other airports in the U.S. that are under schedule review by the FAA will also see some relief for airlines. At Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport and San Francisco International Airport, airlines would receive credit towards slots for flights that were canceled due to the pandemic.
In addition, the FAA is proposing conditions on the waiver, that slots not used for an extended period would be made available to other airlines on a temporary basis. American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and Jetblue Airways all support the extension of waivers for slot requirements.
Airlines have seen a historic drop in demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Bookings are down 82% from last year and schedule flexibility has become key as supply constantly changes to match consumer demand. Spirit Airlines opposes the extension to the slot waiver, citing the free market allowing consumers more options in slot restricted airports as slots become reassigned to other airlines. The FAA has stated that its proposal for an extension provides the best balance between new carriers wishing to add flights and existing carriers seek ing schedule flexibility.
Delta Air Lines, a large operator in New York and Washington, D.C, has told the FAA it projects to operate just over half of its total slot portfolio in November for the airports in the region. Demand for the northeast has plummeted as the area was an early epicenter for the pandemic in the U.S. The effects are being felt as American Airlines regional carrier, Envoy Airways, will close its New York base due to the pandemic. The move will affect both flight crews and maintenance teams in the city, which is a shared base between LaGuardia and JFK.
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