US extends location waiver protection for former carriers

Bad news if you’re a consumer: The US Federal Aviation Administration has extended its waiver of “use it or lose it” slot requirements until fall 2022, giving airlines much more flexibility in their schedules. Spring and Summer International. These slot waivers will result in higher airfares.

International slot exemption protection continues through summer 2022 at major US airports

Major airlines will keep their valuable international takeoff and landing slots thanks to the extension of an FAA pandemic-era weaver. Traditionally, airlines were required to use 80% of their take-off and landing slots with controlled airlines or lose them. These airports included:

  • New York Kennedy (JFK)
  • New York Guardia (LGA)
  • Washington–Reagan National (DCA)

But that was waived during the pandemic, giving in to outcry from airlines that they would be forced to operate expensive “ghost” flights in order to maintain their slots which would have no passengers.

Since March 2020, slot exemptions have been extended four times.

The latest FAA decision has an impact international flights only and was courted not only by former US carriers American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines, but also by Lufthansa and British Airways. Practically, carriers can reduce the schedules of these airports without risking losing their slots until October 29, 2022.

This decision also relaxes flight monitoring in:

  • Chicago O’Hare (ORD)
  • Los Angeles (LAX)
  • Newark (EWR)
  • San Francisco (FSO)

These airports are not slot-controlled, but the FAA does exercise a formal schedule review process, which will now be relaxed.

FAA Noted:

“Based on global vaccination rates, changing infection rates and the threat of new virus strains, the continued unpredictability of travel restrictions and the disparity between demand for domestic air travel and the request for international air travel, extending the current limited and conditional waiver for international operations by all carriers, is reasonable.

This decision was not supported by those who do not have slots or want more slots, such as low-cost carriers Frontier and Spirit. These carriers, which also hope to merge, would like to increase flights and argue that protecting incumbent carriers is bad for consumers.

They are right, to a certain extent. This waiver allows airlines to reduce their schedules, which will further increase already high airfares. I have seen nothing but booming transatlantic demand and I fear this decision will lead to further price increases and potential schedule reductions. Service to Asia is limited from New York JFK and non-existent from LaGuardia or Reagan, so this is not to address the lack of demand for Asian traffic.

CONCLUSION

The latest FAA slot waiver provides more flexibility for incumbents. Expect higher airfares even if airlines end up running their full schedules, as they now have the option of consolidating flights if their higher airfare leaves too many seats empty.

image: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

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