FAA Supports The Extension Of Slot Waivers Through March 2021

Yesterday, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) shared that it favors the extension of temporary waivers of minimum flight requirements at some airports in the US until late March next year. This move would be in place amid the impact of the global health crisis.

American and Delta Planes at LAX
The FAA is showing its support regarding airport waiver extensions in the United States. Photo: Getty Images

Still a challenging time

As the COVID-19 outbreak escalated in March of this year, flight activity plummeted. The situation forced airlines to perform ghost flights so that they would not lose their airport slots. However, aviation authorities soon suspended the “lose it or lose it” rule, which significantly helped many operators survive the harsh conditions brought on this year.

Earlier this summer, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) called on authorities across the globe to extend airport slot waivers. Many bodies in the aviation industry wouldn’t have expected the impact of the pandemic to be still so significant.

However, with several countries still trying to get on top of the situation, flight activity is still a shadow of what it was at the beginning of the year. Altogether, bookings have been down approximately 82% year-on-year compared to last summer.

Southwest Getty
US airports are much quieter than usual this year. Photo: Getty Images

Plans in place

Ultimately, carriers can lose their slots at congested airports if they do not use them at least 80% of the time. According to Reuters, the US’ aviation authority shared that it proposed extending temporary waivers of the requirements at JFK and LaGuardia airports in New York, along with Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. These waivers were set to expire next month.

Additionally, the FAA proposes to extend credits to airlines for services canceled due to coronavirus at Chicago O’Hare, Newark, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. However, the body said that it plans to impose some conditions on the waivers. Notably, it feels that slots that not in use for lengthy periods should temporarily be available to other carriers.

As reported by Reuters, the FAA said the following about its proposal:

“[It] reflects a delicate balancing of the competing interests of carriers interested in conducting ad hoc operations… against the interests of incumbent carriers seeking maximum flexibility in making scheduling and operational decisions in an uncertain environment with ongoing COVID-19-related impacts.”

Delta and United
The extensions would help several US airlines. Photo: Getty Images

Opinion divided

However, not all carriers are in favor of an extension to waivers. For instance, Spirit Airlines states that public policy should be directed toward enabling the free market to reallocate the use of these slots. Ultimately, the low-cost carrier feels that travelers would receive greater choice among services in key markets.

Nonetheless, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue, and United Airlines all last week urged the group to extend relief. So, there are still many carriers that are welcoming of this initiative.

What are your thoughts about the Federal Aviation Administration supporting the extension of slot waivers? Do you feel that this move would benefit airlines amid the current climate? Let us know what you think of the situation in the comment section.