The U.S. will extend slot waivers at New York JFK, LaGuardia and Washington National through October. United, Delta, and American asked for this jointly, to protect their turf without actually having to fly full schedules.
Among other reasons for agreeing, the FAA cites “global vaccination rates” as well as “continued unpredictability of [international] travel restrictions” and “the disparity between demand for domestic air travel and demand for international air travel” despite the fact that only one of the three slot-controlled airports in the U.S. (New York JFK) carries much international traffic at all. In addition,
At four other U.S. airports where the FAA has a formal schedule-review process – Chicago O’Hare, Newark in New Jersey, Los Angeles and San Francisco – the agency proposes to extend credits to airlines for flights that were canceled in the pandemic as though those flights were operated.
At the most congested airports, the federal government limits the number of takeoffs and landings that are permitted.
- They assign those takeoffs and landings to specific incumbent airlines
- Who treat them as a property right, even buying and selling them
The slot control process is a giant subsidy for entrenched carriers, who get valuable assets from the government for free. The one rule is that they actually have to use a slot 80% of the time or else they can lose it to another airline that wants to fly, since the point is to provide air service to the greatest extent possible.
Slots are a bad way of limiting flights anyway. Far better would be congestion pricing. Simply charge for takeoffs and landings when there’s more demand than capacity. Instead of giving out a corporate subsidy, and keeping out competitors, you’d get the most valuable flights at the most peak times.
However if wedded to slots (and it would be hard to wrest those assets from entrenched interests) at least don’t make them permanent gifts. Offer them at auction as multi-year leases. Free the slots and you can bring competition to big aviation markets.
At the very least when Delta, American and United come to the government together to ask for something, be skeptical that it’s in your interest.