Federal officials are expanding epidemic relief this summer at major airports in New York and Washington to help major airlines secure their lucrative takeoff and landing rights.
Typically, airlines that fail to exercise their designated rights or “slots” at New York’s John F. Kennedy and Lagarde airports and at Reagan National Airport outside of Washington are at risk of losing them. However, regulators waived the rule in March 2020 when airlines shut down flights due to epidemics.
The FAA has extended the slot-use waiver four times, with the last grace period ending on Sunday. Instead, the FAA will only extend the waiver for international flights by October 29, according to a decision published in the Federal Register next week.
The agency noted the “worldwide evolving and highly unpredictable situation” in the vicinity of COVID-19.
The FAA will also extend relaxation rules regarding flight schedules at Newark (New Jersey) Liberty Airport, Chicago O’Hare, Los Angeles International and San Francisco International.
The waivers were backed by trade groups for major US airlines plus Lufthansa, British Airways and other major international carriers. Smaller airlines often oppose such measures, which they say make it harder for them to grow at the busiest airports.
The FAA’s move comes as U.S. air travel approaches pre-epidemic levels.
According to official figures, more than 2 million people pass through airport security checkpoints every day in March, down 13% from the same month in 2019. Trade Group Airlines for America says international travel to the United States has dropped 42% since 2019.