March 11, 2020 / 2:00 PM / 19 days ago

U.S. waiving minimum flight requirements for airlines because of coronavirus

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said Wednesday it will temporarily waive minimum flight requirements at U.S. airports through May 31 to help airlines facing a steep decline in travel demand due to the coronavirus.

Airlines can lose their slots at congested airports if they do not use them at least 80 percent of the time. The FAA said it will waive the requirements for U.S. and foreign airlines and expects that U.S. carriers will be accommodated with reciprocal relief by foreign authorities at airports in their countries. The waiver applies to New York’s JFK and LaGuardia airports and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

At four other U.S. airports where the FAA has a formal schedule-review process - Chicago O’Hare, Newark Liberty, Los Angeles and San Francisco - the agency will give credit to airlines for flights that were canceled due to the coronavirus through May 31, as though those flights had been operated.

American Airlines (AAL.O), which said Tuesday it would cut U.S. flights by 7.5% in April, said it had requested temporary relief from the FAA for the slot requirement “to better align capacity with demand without the risk of losing valuable takeoff and landing slots for the future.” The airline said it would “make adjustments as needed if waivers are granted.”

United Airlines (UAL.O) noted at a conference Tuesday that in Europe some airlines were flying empty planes just to hold onto slot rights.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Steve Orlofsky

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