FAA Proposes Waiving Minimum Flight Requirements for Airlines

While the airline industry is still waiting for Congress to discuss a proposed new round of grants and loans, the Federal Aviation Administration on Friday proposed a stop-gap measure.

The agency is seeking an extension of temporary waivers of minimum flight requirements at some U.S. airports through late March 2021, according to Reuters News Service.

Airlines are required to have a certain amount of flights flying out of airports as part of a mutual agreement for gate slots. If they don’t meet an 80 percent minimum usage requirement they can lose their spots at heavily congested airports to other airlines.

The FAA is proposing extending the waiver for that minimum usage at New York’s John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia airports and at Washington D.C.’s Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport that was set to expire in October.

In addition, the FAA is proposing to extend credits to airlines for flights canceled due to the coronavirus at Chicago O’Hare, Newark-Liberty, Los Angeles International and San Francisco International. The pandemic has crushed the industry, with capacity down around 75 percent compared to what it was last year, although airlines did get a boost over Labor Day weekend.

Delta Air Lines, for instance, told the FAA it projected only using 50-60 percent of its slots in New York and Washington airports in November.

The FAA said its proposal “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.”

Spirit Airlines opposed the move, saying that “public policy should be directed toward enabling the free market to reallocate the use of these slots/authorizations – a public resource – such that passengers receive greater choice among offerings in these key markets.”

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