US will give airlines a break on takeoff rights in NYC, DC

Federal officials are extending pandemic relief to help major airlines keep their coveted takeoff and landing rights at big airports in New York and Washington this summer

Normally, airlines that fail to use their assigned rights, or “slots,” at John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports in New York, and Reagan National Airport outside Washington, risk losing them. However, regulators waived that rule in March 2020 when airlines cut flights due to the pandemic.

The FAA has extended the slot-use waiver four times, with the last grace period set to expire Sunday. Instead, the FAA will extend the waiver for international flights only through Oct. 29, it said in a decision scheduled to be published in the Federal Register next week.

The agency cited “the evolving and highly unpredictable situation globally” around COVID-19.

The FAA will also extend relaxed rules regarding flight schedules at Newark (New Jersey) Liberty Airport, Chicago O’Hare, Los Angeles International and San Francisco International.

The waivers were supported by the trade group for large US airlines plus Lufthansa, British Airways and other big international carriers. Smaller airlines often oppose such measures, which they say make it harder for them to grow at the busiest airports.

The FAA’s action comes as US air travel edges closer to pre-pandemic levels.

More than 2 million people per day have passed through airport security checkpoints in March, a decline of 13% from the same month in 2019, according to government figures. Trade group Airlines for America says international travel to and from the US is down 42% from 2019.

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