In a decision expected to be published next week in the Federal Register, the Federal Aviation Administration will extend pandemic relief to allow major airlines to cut international flights without having to lose their coveted slots, or gates, at major airports.
It would be the fifth time the FAA has ruled to help airlines since the pandemic began in March of 2020.
In short, if an airline fails to meet the required number of flights taking off from or landing at the respective gate it was assigned, it risks losing that slot to a competitor.
The FAA is waiving that rule again for carriers who fly internationally out of John F. Kennedy International Airport and LaGuardia Airport in New York City, and Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C.
The waiver extension is for international flights only through October 29, 2022, with the FAA citing “the evolving and highly unpredictable situation globally,” presumably meaning not only the COVID-19 outbreak but the outbreak of war over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The war has spawned a back-and-forth escalation of bans on western airlines flying over Russia, and Russian airlines flying over the U.S., Canada and much of Europe.
The FAA is also expected to add waivers for airlines at Newark-Liberty Airport in New Jersey, as well O’Hare in Chicago, Los Angeles International and San Francisco International.
The move comes as the FAA hopes to avoid what has happened in Europe, where many international carriers based there have been forced to operate “ghost flights” – trips with little to no passengers on board – just to maintain their slot rights.