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U.S. and Europe Rulemakers Consider Temporarily Waiving Slot Requirements

U.S. and Europe Rulemakers Consider Temporarily Waiving Slot Requirements
Joe Cortez

As airlines struggle to fill aircraft and cut capacity by 50 percent or more, lawmakers are considering offering aid by offering airport slot waivers. The Federal Aviation Administration and European Commission have both proposed waving minimum flight requirements through March 2021.

Under normal circumstances, airlines cutting capacity would come with losing valuable take off and landing slots at the world’s biggest airports. But the COVID-19 pandemic has been anything but normal, and airlines have been forced to cut capacity because flyers are not booking new airfare.

As a result, two major government organizations are considering waving minimum flight requirements through March 2021, giving airlines some protection over their routes. While the Federal Aviation Administration is proposing a waiver, the European Commission says they plan on extending theirs in the coming days.

Airport Slot Waivers Would Protect Routes Held by Airlines

Under the current FAA rules, airlines can lose their slots if they do not fly them at least 80 percent of the time. But according to Reuters, the agency is considering a plan to allow airlines to keep their slots through March 2021. The airlines would get a blanket waiver at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and LaGuardia Airport (LGA), as well as at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA).

However, for slots at Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD), Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) and San Francisco International Airport (SFO), the FAA would offer airlines credits for flights cancelled directly due to COVID-19. If an airline were to not use a slot for an extended period of time, it could be offered to another carrier on a temporary basis to keep passengers and freight moving.

In Europe, the Commissioner for Transport Adina Vălean has already expressed her intention to extend slot waivers unilaterally through Mar. 27, 2021. Because intra-Europe traffic is slumping in September and international traffic is still at historic lows, the commissioner said the extension would help airlines continue to plan for schedules once aviation gets back to normal.

“I appreciate that industry stakeholders – airports, airlines, and slot-coordinators – have reached an agreement on how to mitigate these problems, and I would like to highlight the importance of this agreement,” the commissioner said in a statement. “Airlines will now be able to start planning and making available any excess airport capacity for others to use.”

Spirit Lone Dissenting Voice in Waiver Extensions

Among U.S. based carriers, all three legacy carriers and JetBlue supported the extensions, as their schedules have been significantly cut due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The only dissenting voice was Spirit Airlines, which argued that allowing slots to open up would allow flyers to “receive greater choice among offerings in these key markets.”

View Comments (3)


  1. diburning

    September 16, 2020 at 9:41 pm

    “If an airline were to not use a slot for an extended period of time, it could be offered to another airport on a temporary basis to keep passengers and freight moving.”

    Did you mean offered to another airline? It doesn’t make sense to offer a slot to another airport.

  2. Joe Cortez

    September 17, 2020 at 8:51 am

    Thanks for noticing – so corrected!

  3. Spanish


    September 20, 2020 at 2:00 am

    I’m in full agreement with Spirit Airlines. Times are different now, airlines need to make some adjustments. I was unaware that so many US airports are slot-restricted. I thought it was just DCA and LGA. Learn something every day…

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