Airlines get a break on slot rules at New York, Washington airports
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
Airlines can hold onto their slots at busy airports in New York and Washington until March, a bit of good news from U.S. officials amid a worsening outlook for their first winter during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Federal Aviation Administration has waived slot usage rules at the congested New York John F. Kennedy (JFK) and New York LaGuardia (LGA) airports as well as at Washington Reagan National (DCA). The waiver now extends until March 27, 2021, the FAA said in a notice posted on Oct. 5. One slot is needed for every takeoff or landing — two for a round-trip flight — at these airports.
In addition, rules governing the coordination of flights at busy Chicago O’Hare (ORD), Los Angeles (LAX), Newark (EWR) and San Francisco (SFO) airports were partially extended through March.
Previous waivers to both sets of rules were set to expire Oct. 24.
The move by the FAA is good news for airlines. Without the waiver, any airline with a slot at JFK, LaGuardia or Washington National faced the prospect of having to fly 80% of its schedule or risk losing those valuable rights. That could have meant hundreds of nearly-empty “ghost flights” operating this winter — costing airlines precious money and pumping unneeded carbon into the atmosphere.
For example, American Airlines is scheduled to resume its pre-pandemic schedule of up to 258 daily departures from its Washington National hub on Dec. 1 — a dramatic jump from just 63 departures the day before — according to Cirium schedules. The airline can now decide what level of air service is warranted based on the number of travelers taking to the skies rather than a need to comply with slot rules.
Flyers, however, are not expected to be back in significant numbers by then. Recent data from travel analytics firm OAG shows November bookings at American, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines at at most a quarter of the level seen at the the beginning of October 2019.
Data from trade group Airlines for America (A4A) shows U.S. domestic flyer numbers down 65% during the week ending Sept. 27 compared to last year.
Not every airline supported the FAA’s waiver extension. Discounter Spirit Airlines objected to the move in comments to the regulator on Sept. 22. The carrier said extending waivers was “unacceptably protective of dominant incumbent carriers at the expense of the traveling public and of low-cost carriers ready and willing to serve.”
Spirit has a history of pushing for more access to capacity-controlled airports in the U.S. In December 2019, it sued the FAA to allocate unused peak-period flights at Newark. The case was undecided when COVID-19 hit.
In its September comment, Spirit told the regulator that it has sought access to JFK for 14 years but not able to secure the necessary gates and ground facilities to add flights.
Alaska Airlines, Delta, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines and United, plus A4A, all supported an extension of slot waivers in comments filed in September.
Featured image By Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
- Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at US restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.
- Accelerate your path to Medallion Status, with Status Boost®. Plus, in 2021 you can earn even more bonus Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) to help you reach Medallion Status.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees