FAA Considers Extending Slot-Use Rules
- The FAA is proposing to extend its slot-use wavier at Washington Reagan National, New York LaGuardia, and New York John F. Kennedy International, through March 27, 2021, the end of the winter scheduling season. The proposal, which is open for comments, is not without controversy.
Smaller airlines and new entrants have long complained that incumbents have an unfair advantage at three of the country’s most lucrative airports.
Slots are governed by a use-it-or-lose-it rule that requires airlines to operate flights 80% of the time or risk losing their slots. When the Covid pandemic struck, FAA waived this requirement to prevent airlines from flying empty aircraft simply to keep their slots. The initial waiver ran through May 31, but FAA extended it through Oct. 24. Now, after several airlines, including United, Delta, and American, and trade groups like Airlines for America and IATA have urged it to extend the waiver further, FAA is proposing to suspend the rules through March 27.
Airlines with large operations at the three airports have lauded the extensions. With schedules in flux as demand remains uncertain, airlines say they need the extra flexibility to rework their networks to match passenger traffic. But they want to retain the slots for when demand ultimately returns.
But Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA) objected to the initial extension and has opposed further waivers, the FAA said in its filing. The group says extending waivers will distort competition, raise prices, and could limit the viability of airports to serve their communities.
Spirit also objected, arguing that the waiver gives incumbent carriers the right to squat on valuable slots, shutting out airlines that potentially could operate them. Spirit further argued that demand is returning, making the waivers less necessary now, FAA said. Allegiant concurred with both ACI-NA and Spirit. Southwest, on the other hand, was more measured, asking FAA to limit the waiver to Dec. 31.
- Although FAA acted quickly to waive slot rules, Europe initially was slow to respond. The issue gained attention earlier this year when European airlines flew empty aircraft to slot-constrained airports, like Amsterdam, to keep their slots. The EU ended up waiving the rules. The EU last week acted first and extended its slot-use waiver through March 27, 2021. European airline and airport groups along with IATA had urged the European Commission to extend the waiver and warned that without it airlines may resume operating “ghost flights.”
Cargo Buoys ONT and SLC Opens New Terminal
- Ontario Airport in Southern California said its August traffic was 43% of August 2019, which is a significant recovery and one the airport claims is the third-best in the country. The airport credits the strong local economy for the recovery, as well as airlines restoring service they axed when the pandemic began. More interesting, though, was the sharp increase in cargo traffic. Ontario reported cargo shipments grew by 7% y/y, and in the first eight months of the year, shipments, measured by tonnage, was 20% higher than in 2019.
- Salt Lake City opened the first phase of what is essentially a new airport built on the ground of the existing facility. Last week, the airport opened a new, 25-gate facility, which includes six international gates. Delta will operate from the new terminal. In October, the airport will open a 20-gate terminal for Alaska, American, Frontier, JetBlue, Southwest and United. The old terminal and the new terminals will be linked by a bridge until the end of October.