Skip to content

FAA suspends 'use it or lose it' slot rules at US airports (for now)

March 11, 2020
3 min read
FAA suspends 'use it or lose it' slot rules at US airports (for now)
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.

U.S. airlines now no longer have to decide whether to fly empty flights into three congested airports or risking losing their access as the coronavirus dampens demand for air travel.

Carriers have been reducing their schedules both abroad and domestically to cope with a decline in travel. However, at three East Coast airports, schedule-trimming can be a little trickier than just deciding to shut some services down.

New York's JFK and LaGuardia (LGA) airports, along with Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), are all slot-controlled by the Federal Aviation Administration. That means airlines serving those airports need to receive special permission to land and take off — one slot allows one takeoff or one landing — and those slots are highly restricted. Airlines must use their slots at least 80% of the time, or they can be revoked.

Sign up for the free daily TPG newsletter for more airline news.

As a result, airlines seem to have been hesitant about canceling flights at slot-controlled airports. In a recent slate of coronavirus-related cancellations from United Airlines, for example, not a single flight at LGA or DCA was affected. United does not serve JFK.

On Wednesday, the FAA decided to waive the "use it or lose it" provision of its slot control regulations through May 31, giving carriers more freedom to trim schedules as they see fit.

Related: The most up-to-date info about U.S. airlines' coronavirus-related waivers and schedule changes.

"The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration is temporarily waiving minimum slot-use requirements at U.S. airports to help airlines that cancel flights due to the coronavirus," the agency said in a statement. "The FAA expects that U.S. carriers will be accommodated with reciprocal relief by foreign authorities at airports in their countries, and may determine not to grant a waiver to a foreign carrier whose home jurisdiction does not reciprocate."

The move by the FAA comes just days after European regulators suspended similar restrictions at airports under their jurisdiction.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

As airlines have been scaling back their flying, slot control regulations have come under scrutiny in recent weeks. Some European operators, concerned about running afoul of those strict "use it or lose it" rules before they were suspended, were flying empty planes — dubbed by some as "ghost flights" — just to meet their slot requirements.

Those decisions were met with ridicule from U.S. airline executives.

Read more: British Airways suspends famed A318 all-business-class flight from London City to NYC.

“It’s also crazy, in Europe people are flying 777s with nobody on board to protect slots," Scott Kirby, United Airlines' president said at the J.P. Morgan Industrials Conference on Tuesday. "I mean, if you’re concerned about climate change? Good grief. Flying empty airplanes to protect slots, how ridiculous is that?”

The FAA's Wednesday decision was not unexpected.

On CBS This Morning Wednesday shortly before the change was announced, JetBlue's CEO Robin Hayes said a group of airline executives had requested such relief from the Trump administration a few weeks ago. He said he expected it to come imminently.

In its announcement, the FAA also said it will relax its schedule reviews at Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD), Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), and San Francisco International Airport (SFO). The agency said it will give credit to airlines for previously-scheduled flights at those airports that were canceled due to coronavirus demand reduction through May 31.

Edward Russell contributed reporting.

Featured image by AFP via Getty Images

Top offers from our partners

How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers

TPG featured card

Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 10X points
10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

80,000 bonus points
Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Annual Fee

$550

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    80,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more