COVID-19 Related Relief Concerning Operations at Chicago O'Hare International Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport, New York LaGuardia Airport, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, and San Francisco International Airport for the Winter 2020/2021 Scheduling Season, 57288-57292 [2020-20434]

Download as PDF 57288 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 179 / Tuesday, September 15, 2020 / Notices • Hand Delivery or Courier: Take comments to Docket Operations in Room W12–140 of the West Building Ground Floor at 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20590– 0001, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays. • Fax: Fax comments to Docket Operations at (202) 493–2251. Privacy: In accordance with 5 U.S.C. 553(c), DOT solicits comments from the public to better inform its rulemaking process. DOT posts these comments, without edit, including any personal information the commenter provides, to http://www.regulations.gov, as described in the system of records notice (DOT/ALL–14 FDMS), which can be reviewed at http://www.dot.gov/ privacy. Docket: Background documents or comments received may be read at http://www.regulations.gov at any time. Follow the online instructions for accessing the docket or go to the Docket Operations in Room W12–140 of the West Building Ground Floor at 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20590–0001, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Brenda Robeson (202) 267–4693, Office of Rulemaking, Federal Aviation Administration, 800 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20591. This notice is published pursuant to 14 CFR 11.85. Issued in Washington, DC, on September 10, 2020. Brandon Roberts, Executive Director, Office of Rulemaking. jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with NOTICES Petition for Exemption Docket No.: FAA–2020–0693. Petitioner: National Air Transportation Association (NATA). Section(s) of 14 CFR Affected: §§ 135.293(a) and (b), 135.297(a) and (c)(2), and 135.299(a)(1). Description of Relief Sought: Petitioner requests, on behalf of its members authorized to operate under part 135, basic operators, single pilot/ single pilot-in-command operators, and other similarly situated operators, an interim 180-day exemption from §§ 135.293(a) and (b), 135.297(a) and (c)(2), and 135.299(a)(1) pertaining to who may conduct various tests and check rides. This petition is directly related to the circumstances associated with the COVID–19 pandemic. [FR Doc. 2020–20319 Filed 9–14–20; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4910–13–P VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:57 Sep 14, 2020 Jkt 250001 DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION Federal Aviation Administration [Docket No. FAA–2020–0862] COVID–19 Related Relief Concerning Operations at Chicago O’Hare International Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport, New York LaGuardia Airport, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, and San Francisco International Airport for the Winter 2020/2021 Scheduling Season Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Department of Transportation (DOT). ACTION: Notice of proposed extension of limited waiver of the minimum slot usage requirement. AGENCY: The FAA proposes to extend through March 27, 2021, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID–19)related limited waiver of the minimum slot usage requirement at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), New York LaGuardia Airport (LGA), and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) that the FAA has already made available through October 24, 2020, with additional conditions as described below. The FAA also proposes to extend, through December 31, 2020, its COVID–19-related policy for prioritizing flights canceled at designated International Air Transport Association (IATA) Level 2 airports in the United States, for purposes of establishing a carrier’s operational baseline in the initial months of the next corresponding season, also with additional conditions as described below. These IATA Level 2 airports include Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD), Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), and San Francisco International Airport (SFO). This notice affords interested persons an opportunity to submit comments and any relevant information on the FAA’s proposal. The FAA anticipates subsequently providing notice of its final decision. DATES: Submit comments on or before September 22, 2020. ADDRESSES: Submit comments and supporting data email to the Slot Administration Office at 7-awaslotadmin@faa.gov. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Bonnie Dragotto, Office of the Chief Counsel, Regulations Division, Federal Aviation Administration, 800 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00108 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 DC 20591; telephone: (202) 267–3808; email: bonnie.dragotto@faa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Previous Waiver Relief Related to COVID–19 In a notice published in the Federal Register on March 16, 2020 (85 FR 15018), the FAA announced certain relief through May 31, 2020, in light of impacts on air travel demand related to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID–19). As announced in that notice, through May 31, 2020, the FAA waived the minimum usage requirement as to any slot associated with a scheduled nonstop flight between JFK, LGA, or DCA, respectively, and another point that was canceled as a direct result of COVID–19related impacts.1 In addition, that notice announced that the FAA would prioritize flights canceled due to COVID–19 at designated IATA Level 2 airports in the United States—including ORD, EWR, LAX, and SFO—through May 31, 2020, for purposes of establishing a carrier’s operational baseline in the next corresponding season.2 In granting this relief, the FAA asserted its expectation that foreign slot coordinators would accommodate U.S. carriers with reciprocal relief. The FAA further stated that it would continue to monitor the situation and might augment the waiver as circumstances warrant. Subsequently, following a notice of opportunity for interested persons to show cause why the FAA should or should not extend the relief provided due to continuing COVID–19-related impacts on demand for air travel (85 FR 16989; Mar. 25, 2020), the FAA determined to extend the relief through October 24, 2020 (85 FR 21500; Apr. 17, 2020). The FAA explained its intent to provide carriers with maximum flexibility during this unprecedented situation and to support the long-term viability of carrier operations at slot1 Although DCA and LGA are not designated as IATA Level 3 slot-controlled airports given that these airports primarily serve domestic destinations, FAA limits operations at these airports via rules at DCA and an Order at LGA that are equivalent to IATA Level 3. The FAA reiterates that the relief provided in the March 16, 2020, notice (85 FR 15018), the April 17, 2020, notice (85 FR 21500), and this proposal extends to all allocated slots, including slots allocated by exemption. 2 The FAA notes that a minimum usage requirement does not apply at designated IATA Level 2 airports in the United States. Moreover, established procedures under the IATA Worldwide Slot Guidelines (WSG) allow for the prioritization of such cancelations in subsequent corresponding seasons consistent with the FAA’s policy statement. E:\FR\FM\15SEN1.SGM 15SEN1 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 179 / Tuesday, September 15, 2020 / Notices controlled and IATA Level 2 airports in the United States.3 jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with NOTICES Current COVID–19 Situation Since the FAA’s determination in April to extend relief through October 24, 2020, COVID–19 has continued to cause disruption globally and within the United States. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports COVID–19 cases in more than 200 countries, areas, and territories worldwide. For the week ending September 6, 2020, the WHO reported over 1.8 million new COVID– 19 cases and 37,000 new deaths, bringing the cumulative total to nearly 27 million confirmed COVID–19 cases and 900,000 deaths. International travel recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) categorize nearly 200 countries, areas, and territories worldwide under Level 3: COVID–19 Risk Is High. Although the State Department’s Global Health Advisory has been downgraded from Level 4—Do Not Travel for certain destinations, advisories ranging from Level 2— Exercise Increased Caution to Level 3— Reconsider Travel and up to Level 4 remain in effect for many parts of the world due to continuing impacts of COVID–19. The Department of State advises that challenges to any international travel at this time may include mandatory quarantines, travel restrictions, and closed borders. The Department of State notes further that foreign governments may implement restrictions with little notice, even in destinations that were previously low risk. Accordingly, the Department of State warns Americans choosing to travel internationally that their trip may be severely disrupted and it may be difficult to arrange travel back to the United States. Within the United States, the CDC reported 6,343,562 total cases and 190,262 deaths from COVID–19 as of September 10, 2020, with 256,159 new cases in the prior seven days. A national emergency related to COVID–19 remains in effect pursuant to the President’s March 13, 2020 Proclamation. The CDC advises prospective domestic travelers 3 The FAA is responsible to develop plans and policy for the use of the navigable airspace and assign by regulation or order the use of the airspace necessary to ensure the safety of aircraft and the efficient use of airspace. See 49 U.S.C. 40103(b)(1). The FAA manages slot usage requirements under the authority of 14 CFR 93.227 at DCA and under the authority of Orders at LGA and JFK. See Operating Limitations at John F. Kennedy International Airport (83 FR 46865; Sep. 17, 2018); Operating Limitations at New York LaGuardia Airport (83 FR 47065; Sep. 18, 2018). The FAA has issued extensions of the JFK and LGA Orders until October 29, 2022, which are pending publication in the Federal Register. VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:57 Sep 14, 2020 Jkt 250001 to consider whether their destination has requirements or restrictions for travelers, and notes that State, local, and territorial governments may have travel restrictions in place, including testing requirements, stay-at-home orders, and quarantine requirements upon arrival. Written Submissions From Stakeholders Since the FAA’s determination in April to extend relief through October 24, 2020, the FAA has received numerous written submissions from stakeholders reflecting competing interests and views with respect to further continuation of the relief currently in effect at U.S. slot-controlled and designated IATA Level 2 airports.4 IATA, Airlines for America (A4A), and multiple U.S. carriers, including American Airlines, Inc., Delta Air Lines, Inc., JetBlue Airways Corporation, and United Airlines, Inc., as well as a coalition of airlines worldwide and the African Airlines Association (AFRAA), have urged the FAA to extend relief through the Winter 2020/2021 scheduling season, which ends on March 27, 2021. By contrast, others including Airports Council International-North America (ACI–NA), the National Air Carrier Association (NACA), Spirit Airlines, Inc., Allegiant Air, LLC, and Travelers United have urged the FAA to deny requests for additional waivers altogether or impose further limitations. Southwest Airlines Co. proposes a middle ground approach—one additional limited extension of the relief previously provided, with a clear cutoff date—as a possible means of balancing competing stakeholder interests. Submissions Favoring Relief for the Full Winter 2020/2021 Season In a letter dated June 30, 2020, IATA and A4A urged the FAA to extend the relief already provided at slot-controlled airports and IATA Level 2 airports in the United States for the full Winter 2020/2021 season. They noted an anticipated $84.3 billion loss for airlines globally in 2020, and asserted that a full recovery to pre-COVID–19 demand is not expected for at least three years. In support of the requested relief, IATA and A4A pointed to: Historically low levels of bookings, with overall bookings down 82% year-on-year for 2020 compared to the outlook for 2019; 4 Copies of submissions to the DOT and FAA discussed herein concerning the continuation of COVID-related relief at U.S. slot-controlled and designated IATA Level 2 airports, except submissions marked as containing information deemed privileged and confidential, have been placed in the docket associated with this notice. PO 00000 Frm 00109 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 57289 consumer demand that continues to fall; challenges associated with using established scheduling practices under current conditions; and the need for schedule flexibility to support sustainable loads. IATA and A4A stated that they expect to continue to see big drops in advance bookings and many last minute bookings (and cancellations) unless and until there is a clear path towards a vaccine and/or treatment for COVID–19 and governments lift existing travel bans and health requirements. Moreover, IATA and A4A asserted that airport capacity is under pressure due to biosecurity measures, leading to reduced capacity and increased connection times. IATA and A4A expect that the requested waiver would provide the flexibility needed for airlines to manage operations in this environment. In addition, IATA shared with the FAA a position paper concerning a Northern Winter 2020 Slot Waiver. That paper recognizes ‘‘the needs of all stakeholders affected by a slot waiver and the desire to ensure a swift recovery is supported and not hindered.’’ In this paper, IATA expresses agreement to the following principles: • Suspension of the Use-it or Lose-it rule should apply for all Level 3 slot coordinated airports globally, ensuring no airline or airport is treated differently. • Level 2 facilitators should prioritize flights cancelled, or otherwise not operated as originally intended, for purposes of establishing a carrier’s operational baseline in the next corresponding season. • The waiver should not apply to slots newly allocated from the pool for the Winter 2020/2021 season. • The waiver should not apply to slots that are held by an airline exiting the airport permanently, beginning in the Winter 2020/2021 period, with no intention to return and no utilization of those slots in the Winter 2020/2021 period in keeping with WASG 8.14. This does not prevent slot transfers and operator utilization where local regulation and legislation allows. • The waiver should require airlines to hand back slots not intended for utilization as soon as possible, but at the latest two weeks prior to planned operation in order to receive alleviation. Airlines should not hold on to slots they will not utilize but return them to the coordinator at the earliest opportunity for reallocation in keeping with WASG 8.5.2. • Consideration for alleviation should be given to slots that are returned less than two weeks before operation in the event that government advice prevents a planned flight from operating (for E:\FR\FM\15SEN1.SGM 15SEN1 57290 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 179 / Tuesday, September 15, 2020 / Notices jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with NOTICES example, closure of borders or government advice to prevent all but essential travel).5 Moreover, A4A submitted an additional petition, by letter dated September 2, 2020, reiterating its request for an extension of the relief already provided at slot-controlled airports and IATA Level 2 airports in the United States for the full Winter 2020/2021 season. American Airlines requested an extension of the Summer 2020 full season slot usage waiver for the full Winter 2020/2021 IATA slot season, by letter dated June 15, 2020. American asserted that the waiver would provide flexibility that supports airlines as the demand environment recovers slowly. American stated that this flexibility allows airlines to create flight schedules based on rapidly evolving consumer demand rather than on slot usage requirements. In a letter dated July 6, 2020, Delta stated that COVID–19 is a highly unusual and unpredictable event that will impact Delta operations for the foreseeable future, and asserted that U.S. carriers need flexibility from slot usage requirements as the impact of COVID–19 continues to severely impact air travel. Absent the continuation of relief from the minimum slot usage requirements and relief provided at IATA Level 2 airports, Delta indicated that critical improvements, including service expansion to numerous new destinations from JFK and LGA in recent years, as well as capital investments at JFK and LGA for expansion and redevelopment, would be at risk. Delta noted that for November 2020, it projected operating 50%–60% of its slot portfolio in New York and Washington, DC airports, and that travel year over year across the Delta network was down 85%. Leaders of twenty-nine airlines around the world, including United Airlines from the United States, sent a letter addressed to responsible slot authorities dated July 14, 2020, requesting a waiver from the minimum slot usage requirements during the Winter 2020/2021 season. The letter asserts that this waiver is ‘‘critical to . . . manage through this crisis, recover, and provide the significant consumer, community, competitive, employment, and economic benefits synonymous 5 The FAA notes that the proposal submitted by IATA and A4A references provisions of the new Worldwide Airport Slot Guidelines (WASG) Edition 1, effective June 1, 2020; however, the FAA reiterates that it continues to apply WSG Edition 9 in the United States to the extent there is no conflict with local rules. However, the provisions cited by IATA and A4A were included in WSG Edition 9. VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:57 Sep 14, 2020 Jkt 250001 with aviation’’ and will ‘‘help stabilize a very tenuous operational and commercial environment.’’ This coalition further asserted that ‘‘[a]irlines should not have to fly empty planes in order to hold their historical slot rights—it is inefficient and irresponsible.’’ In its cover letter to the coalition’s submission, United Airlines emphasizes that COVID–19 continues to cause an unprecedented crisis as ‘‘cases are rising around the globe and the industry is nowhere near beginning a durable, economic recovery.’’ The AFRAA submitted a letter to the FAA dated August 31, 2020, stating that COVID–19 affected air transport adversely, estimating a loss of about $8.8 billion for African airlines by the end of 2020, and noting that professionals forecast that 2019 activity levels may not return until 2023. AFRAA requests relief until 2022 at JFK, EWR, and ORD on behalf of its members. In a letter dated September 4, 2020, JetBlue requested a waiver for the Winter 2020/2021 season at JFK, LGA, and DCA, as well as corresponding relief at EWR, on the basis that the ‘‘airline industry continues to suffer from the devastating impact of the COVID–19 global pandemic’’ and that ‘‘[d]omestic traffic remains down between 70 and 80 percent.’’ The letter states that a waiver would ‘‘allow JetBlue to only fly flights commensurate with demand’’ and ultimately resume full slot utilization as soon as practical. Submissions Disfavoring Relief for the Full Winter 2020/2021 Season By letter dated July 9, 2020, ACI–NA expressed opposition to any additional ‘‘blanket, long-term waiver,’’ which ACI–NA asserted would ‘‘encourag[e] the underutilization of valuable public resources,’’ be contrary to the public interest, and negatively impact the economic viability of airports and the communities they serve. Cautioning that it would be premature to consider a waiver for the Winter 2020/2021 season prior to August 31, 2020, ACI–NA stated that ‘‘[a]lthough it is very difficult to determine the impact, duration and recovery of the pandemic, [ACI–NA] is seeing evidence of a steady recovery in passenger throughput at [all U.S. slotcontrolled and designated IATA Level 2 airports], which is expected to continue in the future.’’ ACI–NA contended that a blanket waiver will effectively block carriers that are able to provide service from providing price and service competition the public is willing and able to consume, and noted difficulty reconciling public statements of large carriers acknowledging the need to PO 00000 Frm 00110 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 drastically reduce service while also seeking to ‘‘retain access privileges to the most lucrative and constrained facilities.’’ ACI–NA expressed concern that further waiver relief could impair the industry’s ability to react to the changed environment brought on by COVID–19. ACI–NA further advocated that, to the degree that slot waivers may be necessary for the Winter 2020/2021 season, ‘‘such relief should only be granted, if at all, closer to the affected season, when the justification can be properly assessed, and only to the extent that these measures are temporary and targeted, matched to the parameters of the crisis and based on evidence related to the specific markets at the particular times.’’ By letter dated July 15, 2020, Spirit Airlines expressed opposition to an extension of the previously granted slot usage waiver and relief announced at IATA Level 2 airports in the United States. Spirit predicted that ‘‘legacy incumbent carriers’’ will continue to seek further extensions of the waiver in future seasons, as they have publicly acknowledged that a full recovery to pre-COVID demand is not expected for at least three years. Agreeing, in part, with ACI–NA’s submission, Spirit further asserted that an extension of the waiver ‘‘would have a pernicious effect on both the short and long-term realignment of the industry following the pandemic and is contrary to the public interest’’ and therefore ‘‘public policy should be directed toward enabling the free market to reallocate the use of these slots/authorizations—a public resource—such that passengers receive greater choice among offerings in these key markets.’’ In a July 20, 2020, letter, Allegiant Air, through counsel, expressed support for the views expressed by both ACI–NA and Spirit. Opposing an extension of the existing relief provided and stressing the ‘‘primacy of the public interest over slot holders’ interests,’’ Allegiant argued that ‘‘the existence of a public health crisis does not justify hoarding of public assets . . . by any carrier when others are prepared to utilize at least some of those assets, benefitting the public.’’ In a submission on July 21, 2020, NACA, which represents 17 air carriers that operate under 14 CFR part 121, likewise expressed opposition to an extension of the previously granted slot usage waiver at U.S. slot-controlled airports and relief at IATA Level 2 airports in the United States through the full Winter 2020/2021 season. NACA expressed support for the individual letters submitted by NACA members Spirit and Allegiant, as well as the views expressed by ACI–NA. NACA E:\FR\FM\15SEN1.SGM 15SEN1 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 179 / Tuesday, September 15, 2020 / Notices jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with NOTICES asserted that ‘‘[p]ermitting legacy carriers to reduce operations for at least another six months would effectively allow them to control capacity and raise fares at a critical time when the traveling public needs lower fares.’’ In a letter dated August 21, 2020, Travelers United (formerly Consumer Travel Alliance) objected to an extension of slot usage waivers at DCA, LGA, and JFK, arguing that further relief ‘‘will thwart the free competitive market’s operation.’’ Travelers United stated that since late March of 2020, incumbent slot holders at DCA, LGA, and JFK have reduced their overall flight operations by approximately 60% to 70% versus a year ago. According to Travelers United, whereas ‘‘it will be years before the legacy airlines can resume the service levels present in 2019,’’ some low cost carriers and ultralow cost carriers ‘‘are ready and willing to provide new service at slot-controlled airports if allowed to do so.’’ Travelers United asserted that ‘‘[t]he free market should be allowed to reallocate the use of these slots, which are actually owned by the public, to airlines that are willing to provide service for the public.’’ Southwest Airlines advocated a ‘‘middle ground approach’’ to balance competing stakeholder interests, in a letter dated August 17, 2020. Southwest expressed support for one final extension of the relief already provided, through December 31, 2020, ‘‘to provide airlines with planning certainty for the rest of the year.’’ Southwest stated that ‘‘granting usage waivers that would allow slot holders to retain all their slots season after season without providing flights for consumers is not in the public interest.’’ Accordingly, Southwest urged that as part of the suggested final extension, the FAA should ‘‘make clear no additional blanket or individual carrier slot usage waivers will be granted’’ in connection with COVID–19. Discussion of Proposed Relief for Slot Holders at U.S. Slot-Controlled Airports (DCA/JFK/LGA) At the present time, COVID–19 continues to present a highly unusual and unpredictable condition that is beyond the control of carriers. Passenger demand has decreased dramatically as a result of COVID–19 even as there are some signs of limited recovery in some markets and restructuring of airline operations. The ultimate duration and severity of COVID–19 impacts on passenger demand in the United States and internationally remain unclear. Even after COVID–19 is contained, impacts on passenger demand are likely to continue for some time. The FAA acknowledges the need for slot holders VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:57 Sep 14, 2020 Jkt 250001 to have some flexibility in decisionmaking as the severe impacts of the COVID–19 public health crisis continue. However, the Office of the Secretary of Transportation (OST) and the FAA note that what starts as a highly unusual and unpredictable condition may eventually become foreseeable. Indeed, many airlines may well be on their way to restructuring their operations in response to a new, albeit volatile, environment. As asserted in some stakeholder submissions recounted above, there may come a point in time in which ongoing waivers to preserve pre-COVID slot holdings could impede the ability of airports and airlines to provide services that may benefit the economy. The FAA acknowledges the interests of carriers with limited or no access to constrained airports in the United States and the interests of airports in serving their local community and rebounding from this crisis. Further, the FAA agrees that any additional relief from the minimum slot usage requirements at U.S. slotcontrolled airports should be narrowly tailored to afford increased access to carriers that are willing and able to operate at these airports, even if on an ad hoc basis until such time as slots revert to the FAA for reallocation under the governing rules and regulations at each slot-controlled airport. The FAA therefore proposes to make available to slot holders at DCA, JFK, and LGA a waiver from the minimum slot usage requirements due to continuing COVID–19 impacts through March 27, 2021, subject to each of the following proposed conditions: (1) All slots not intended to be operated would be required to be returned at least on a monthly basis 4 weeks prior to the start of the month (for example, by November 1, carriers must hand back all December slots not intended to be operated due to COVID– 19) to allow other carriers an opportunity to operate these slots on an ad hoc basis without historic precedence; 6 (2) The waiver would not be made available for net newly-allocated slots eligible for historical precedence, based on allocation decisions made prior to the start of the Winter 2020/2021 scheduling season; and (3) The waiver would not apply to slots newly transferred on an uneven basis (i.e., 6 Under this proposal, carriers will provide a minimum of 4 weeks’ notice, and notifications will occur on a monthly basis, by the first of the month. Two additional examples to illustrate the condition include: (1) If a carrier wishes to cancel its entire December schedule, it must provide notification by November 1; (2) if a carrier wishes to cancel its schedules from December 16–20, it must also provide notice by November 1. Note that the usual process for treating slots as used for the Thanksgiving and Winter holiday periods provided by 14 CFR 93.227(l) of the High Density Rule and the JFK and LGA orders will still apply and will not be superseded by this proposal. PO 00000 Frm 00111 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 57291 via one-way slot transaction/lease) after [DATE 14 DAYS AFTER PUBLICATION OF FINAL DECISION IN THE FEDERAL REGISTER] for the duration of the transfer. Slots granted historic precedence for subsequent seasons based on this proposed relief would not be eligible for transfer if the slot holder ceases all operations at the airport.7 The FAA would apply each of these conditions in considering whether a slot-holding carrier has justification for a waiver based on the non-use of a slot due to COVID–19 impacts. However, the FAA in coordination with OST, will consider granting exceptions from any or all of these conditions if a government’s action (i.e., travel restriction) directly prevents the operation of a flight on a particular route that a carrier otherwise intended to operate. This exception would apply under extraordinary circumstances only in which a carrier is able to demonstrate an inability to operate a particular flight or comply with the conditions of the proposed waiver due to a governmental restriction. Carriers would be expected to provide documentation demonstrating that the carrier made all efforts to operate a flight and that it was unable to determine with reasonable advance notice whether it could do so. This proposal reflects a delicate balancing of the competing interests of carriers interested in conducting ad hoc operations (including carriers not already operating at the airport) against the interests of incumbent carriers seeking maximum flexibility in making scheduling and operational decisions in an uncertain environment with ongoing COVID–19-related impacts. Further, this proposal reflects a compromise position as between interests of airports, incumbent carriers, and carriers seeking new or increased access with respect to the timeline specified for handback, which is 4–8 weeks before the date the operation would have been conducted. The FAA believes this approach is appropriate to provide carriers with flexibility during this unprecedented situation and to support the long-term viability of carrier operations at slotcontrolled airports while also supporting economic recovery. This proposal balances the interests of carriers that are willing and able to resume operations more quickly, and reduces the potential for a long-term waiver to suppress flight operations for which demand exists. The FAA believes this proposal is largely consistent with many of the principles voiced by IATA in its advocacy for a full season Winter 7 The FAA notes that this provision is not intended to apply to continuing long-term transfers that are already part of the operating environment. E:\FR\FM\15SEN1.SGM 15SEN1 57292 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 179 / Tuesday, September 15, 2020 / Notices jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with NOTICES 2020/2021 waiver. Continuing relief for this additional period subject to the proposed conditions is reasonable to balance the interests of all stakeholders to the greatest extent possible under established slot management rules and regulations in the United States. While the FAA is proposing continued, albeit conditional, relief through the Winter 2020/2021 season, carriers should not assume that further relief on the basis of COVID–19 will be forthcoming beyond the end of the Winter 2020/2021 scheduling season. If the FAA extends relief at slotcontrolled airports to March 27, 2021, the FAA expects that foreign slot coordinators will provide reciprocal relief to U.S. carriers. To date, many coordinators have indicated that they will similarly provide additional relief on a conditional basis. To the extent that U.S. carriers fly to a foreign carrier’s home jurisdiction and that home jurisdiction does not offer reciprocal relief to U.S. carriers, the FAA may determine not to grant a waiver to that foreign carrier. A foreign carrier seeking a waiver may wish to ensure that the responsible authority of the foreign carrier’s home jurisdiction submits a statement by email to ScheduleFiling@ dot.gov confirming reciprocal treatment of the slot holdings of U.S. carriers. Discussion of Proposed Relief for Operators at U.S. Designated IATA Level 2 Airports (EWR/LAX/ORD/SFO) The FAA also proposes to extend through December 31, 2020, with conditions, its COVID–19-related policy for prioritizing flights canceled at designated IATA Level 2 airports in the United States, for purposes of establishing a carrier’s operational baseline in that portion of the next corresponding season. The FAA recognizes that some carriers may still be considering schedule plans and assessing demand. An extension of relief through the end of the calendar year would provide time for carriers at IATA Level 2 airports to make schedule decisions, market flights, and plan for aircraft utilization, crew, and facilities for the initial months of the Winter 2020/2021 scheduling season before a return to the standard schedule review and facilitation process. The FAA has previously approved schedules by carriers for the Winter 2020/2021 scheduling season and carriers could choose to operate as approved, apply this proposed policy through December 31, 2020, or submit new schedule proposals for the season. The application of this policy would be contingent on carriers notifying the FAA of any previously approved Winter VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:57 Sep 14, 2020 Jkt 250001 2020/2021 schedules no longer intended to be operated, at least on a monthly basis, four weeks prior to the start of the month (for example, by November 1, carriers must notify the FAA of all approved schedules not intended to be operated in December due to COVID– 19), in order to make these times available for use on an ad hoc basis by other carriers. Consistent with the proposal for Level 3 airports, the FAA proposes to consider, in coordination with OST, allowing exceptions to this condition at Level 2 airports under extraordinary circumstances if a government’s action (i.e., travel restrictions) directly prevents the operation of a flight on a particular route that the carrier would otherwise intend to operate. The more limited relief proposed at Level 2 airports as compared to slotcontrolled airports reflects that the IATA Level 2 construct differs from the rules and process in place at slotcontrolled airports in the United States and at airports globally under the WSG and WASG. The concepts of historic rights, series of slots, or minimum usage requirements do not exist under the Level 2 construct. The voluntary, cooperative nature of Level 2 schedule facilitation is less amenable to a policy that provides priority for flights that are not operated for extended periods of time while potentially denying access to carriers that seek to add service. Under this proposal, a carrier could receive priority for flights only through December 31, 2020, that were approved but are not operated due to COVID–19related impacts. For flights after December 31, 2020, priority would be based on approved schedules as operated for the balance of the scheduling season. The FAA would also provide priority consideration in Winter 2021/2022 for flights approved on an ad hoc basis in Winter 2020/2021 if there is sufficient availability within the scheduling limits. Invitation for Comment The FAA seeks views and information regarding this proposal. Interested persons are invited to submit comments why the FAA should or should not finalize this decision as proposed, and to submit any information relevant to making this decision. Written views and supporting data may be submitted no later than September 22, 2020, by email to the Slot Administration Office at 7awa-slotadmin@faa.gov. Information submitted to the FAA may be subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. The FAA recognizes that commenters may seek to submit business PO 00000 Frm 00112 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 information that is both customarily and actually treated as confidential. Confidential Business Information (CBI) is commercial or financial information that is both customarily and actually treated as private by its owner. Under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) (5 U.S.C. 552), CBI is exempt from public disclosure. If your comments responsive to this notice contain commercial or financial information that is customarily treated as private, that you actually treat as private, and that is relevant or responsive to this notice, it is important that you clearly designate the submitted comments, or any relevant portions thereof, as CBI. Please mark each page of your submission containing CBI as ‘‘PROPIN.’’ The FAA will treat such marked submissions as confidential under FOIA, and will not place confidential content in the public docket for this notice. Any commentary that the FAA receives that is not specifically designated as CBI will be placed in the public docket for this notice. The FAA will take the necessary steps to protect properly designated information to the extent allowable by law. After receiving and reviewing comments, the FAA anticipates subsequently providing notice of its final decision. Issued in Washington, DC, on September 11, 2020. Lorelei Dinges Peter, Assistant Chief Counsel for Regulations. [FR Doc. 2020–20434 Filed 9–11–20; 2:00 pm] BILLING CODE 4910–13–P DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION Maritime Administration [Docket No. MARAD–2020–0121] Request for Comments of a Previously Approved Information Collection: Application for Construction Reserve Fund and Annual Statements Maritime Administration, DOT. Notice and request for comments. AGENCY: ACTION: In compliance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, this notice announces that the Information Collection Request (ICR) abstracted below is being forwarded to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review and comments. A Federal Register Notice with a 60-day comment period soliciting comments on the following information collection was published on June 19, 2020. SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\15SEN1.SGM 15SEN1

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[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 179 (Tuesday, September 15, 2020)]
[Notices]
[Pages 57288-57292]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2020-20434]


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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

Federal Aviation Administration

[Docket No. FAA-2020-0862]


COVID-19 Related Relief Concerning Operations at Chicago O'Hare 
International Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport, Los 
Angeles International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport, 
New York LaGuardia Airport, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, 
and San Francisco International Airport for the Winter 2020/2021 
Scheduling Season

AGENCY: Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Department of 
Transportation (DOT).

ACTION: Notice of proposed extension of limited waiver of the minimum 
slot usage requirement.

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SUMMARY: The FAA proposes to extend through March 27, 2021, the 
coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)-related limited waiver of the 
minimum slot usage requirement at John F. Kennedy International Airport 
(JFK), New York LaGuardia Airport (LGA), and Ronald Reagan Washington 
National Airport (DCA) that the FAA has already made available through 
October 24, 2020, with additional conditions as described below. The 
FAA also proposes to extend, through December 31, 2020, its COVID-19-
related policy for prioritizing flights canceled at designated 
International Air Transport Association (IATA) Level 2 airports in the 
United States, for purposes of establishing a carrier's operational 
baseline in the initial months of the next corresponding season, also 
with additional conditions as described below. These IATA Level 2 
airports include Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD), Newark 
Liberty International Airport (EWR), Los Angeles International Airport 
(LAX), and San Francisco International Airport (SFO). This notice 
affords interested persons an opportunity to submit comments and any 
relevant information on the FAA's proposal. The FAA anticipates 
subsequently providing notice of its final decision.

DATES: Submit comments on or before September 22, 2020.

ADDRESSES: Submit comments and supporting data email to the Slot 
Administration Office at [email protected].

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Bonnie Dragotto, Office of the Chief 
Counsel, Regulations Division, Federal Aviation Administration, 800 
Independence Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20591; telephone: (202) 267-
3808; email: [email protected].

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Previous Waiver Relief Related to COVID-19

    In a notice published in the Federal Register on March 16, 2020 (85 
FR 15018), the FAA announced certain relief through May 31, 2020, in 
light of impacts on air travel demand related to the outbreak of the 
novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). As announced in that notice, 
through May 31, 2020, the FAA waived the minimum usage requirement as 
to any slot associated with a scheduled nonstop flight between JFK, 
LGA, or DCA, respectively, and another point that was canceled as a 
direct result of COVID-19-related impacts.\1\ In addition, that notice 
announced that the FAA would prioritize flights canceled due to COVID-
19 at designated IATA Level 2 airports in the United States--including 
ORD, EWR, LAX, and SFO--through May 31, 2020, for purposes of 
establishing a carrier's operational baseline in the next corresponding 
season.\2\ In granting this relief, the FAA asserted its expectation 
that foreign slot coordinators would accommodate U.S. carriers with 
reciprocal relief. The FAA further stated that it would continue to 
monitor the situation and might augment the waiver as circumstances 
warrant.
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    \1\ Although DCA and LGA are not designated as IATA Level 3 
slot-controlled airports given that these airports primarily serve 
domestic destinations, FAA limits operations at these airports via 
rules at DCA and an Order at LGA that are equivalent to IATA Level 
3. The FAA reiterates that the relief provided in the March 16, 
2020, notice (85 FR 15018), the April 17, 2020, notice (85 FR 
21500), and this proposal extends to all allocated slots, including 
slots allocated by exemption.
    \2\ The FAA notes that a minimum usage requirement does not 
apply at designated IATA Level 2 airports in the United States. 
Moreover, established procedures under the IATA Worldwide Slot 
Guidelines (WSG) allow for the prioritization of such cancelations 
in subsequent corresponding seasons consistent with the FAA's policy 
statement.
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    Subsequently, following a notice of opportunity for interested 
persons to show cause why the FAA should or should not extend the 
relief provided due to continuing COVID-19-related impacts on demand 
for air travel (85 FR 16989; Mar. 25, 2020), the FAA determined to 
extend the relief through October 24, 2020 (85 FR 21500; Apr. 17, 
2020). The FAA explained its intent to provide carriers with maximum 
flexibility during this unprecedented situation and to support the 
long-term viability of carrier operations at slot-

[[Page 57289]]

controlled and IATA Level 2 airports in the United States.\3\
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    \3\ The FAA is responsible to develop plans and policy for the 
use of the navigable airspace and assign by regulation or order the 
use of the airspace necessary to ensure the safety of aircraft and 
the efficient use of airspace. See 49 U.S.C. 40103(b)(1). The FAA 
manages slot usage requirements under the authority of 14 CFR 93.227 
at DCA and under the authority of Orders at LGA and JFK. See 
Operating Limitations at John F. Kennedy International Airport (83 
FR 46865; Sep. 17, 2018); Operating Limitations at New York 
LaGuardia Airport (83 FR 47065; Sep. 18, 2018). The FAA has issued 
extensions of the JFK and LGA Orders until October 29, 2022, which 
are pending publication in the Federal Register.
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Current COVID-19 Situation

    Since the FAA's determination in April to extend relief through 
October 24, 2020, COVID-19 has continued to cause disruption globally 
and within the United States. The World Health Organization (WHO) 
reports COVID-19 cases in more than 200 countries, areas, and 
territories worldwide. For the week ending September 6, 2020, the WHO 
reported over 1.8 million new COVID-19 cases and 37,000 new deaths, 
bringing the cumulative total to nearly 27 million confirmed COVID-19 
cases and 900,000 deaths.
    International travel recommendations from the Centers for Disease 
Control and Prevention (CDC) categorize nearly 200 countries, areas, 
and territories worldwide under Level 3: COVID-19 Risk Is High. 
Although the State Department's Global Health Advisory has been 
downgraded from Level 4--Do Not Travel for certain destinations, 
advisories ranging from Level 2--Exercise Increased Caution to Level 
3--Reconsider Travel and up to Level 4 remain in effect for many parts 
of the world due to continuing impacts of COVID-19. The Department of 
State advises that challenges to any international travel at this time 
may include mandatory quarantines, travel restrictions, and closed 
borders. The Department of State notes further that foreign governments 
may implement restrictions with little notice, even in destinations 
that were previously low risk. Accordingly, the Department of State 
warns Americans choosing to travel internationally that their trip may 
be severely disrupted and it may be difficult to arrange travel back to 
the United States.
    Within the United States, the CDC reported 6,343,562 total cases 
and 190,262 deaths from COVID-19 as of September 10, 2020, with 256,159 
new cases in the prior seven days. A national emergency related to 
COVID-19 remains in effect pursuant to the President's March 13, 2020 
Proclamation. The CDC advises prospective domestic travelers to 
consider whether their destination has requirements or restrictions for 
travelers, and notes that State, local, and territorial governments may 
have travel restrictions in place, including testing requirements, 
stay-at-home orders, and quarantine requirements upon arrival.

Written Submissions From Stakeholders

    Since the FAA's determination in April to extend relief through 
October 24, 2020, the FAA has received numerous written submissions 
from stakeholders reflecting competing interests and views with respect 
to further continuation of the relief currently in effect at U.S. slot-
controlled and designated IATA Level 2 airports.\4\ IATA, Airlines for 
America (A4A), and multiple U.S. carriers, including American Airlines, 
Inc., Delta Air Lines, Inc., JetBlue Airways Corporation, and United 
Airlines, Inc., as well as a coalition of airlines worldwide and the 
African Airlines Association (AFRAA), have urged the FAA to extend 
relief through the Winter 2020/2021 scheduling season, which ends on 
March 27, 2021. By contrast, others including Airports Council 
International-North America (ACI-NA), the National Air Carrier 
Association (NACA), Spirit Airlines, Inc., Allegiant Air, LLC, and 
Travelers United have urged the FAA to deny requests for additional 
waivers altogether or impose further limitations. Southwest Airlines 
Co. proposes a middle ground approach--one additional limited extension 
of the relief previously provided, with a clear cutoff date--as a 
possible means of balancing competing stakeholder interests.
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    \4\ Copies of submissions to the DOT and FAA discussed herein 
concerning the continuation of COVID-related relief at U.S. slot-
controlled and designated IATA Level 2 airports, except submissions 
marked as containing information deemed privileged and confidential, 
have been placed in the docket associated with this notice.
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Submissions Favoring Relief for the Full Winter 2020/2021 Season

    In a letter dated June 30, 2020, IATA and A4A urged the FAA to 
extend the relief already provided at slot-controlled airports and IATA 
Level 2 airports in the United States for the full Winter 2020/2021 
season. They noted an anticipated $84.3 billion loss for airlines 
globally in 2020, and asserted that a full recovery to pre-COVID-19 
demand is not expected for at least three years. In support of the 
requested relief, IATA and A4A pointed to: Historically low levels of 
bookings, with overall bookings down 82% year-on-year for 2020 compared 
to the outlook for 2019; consumer demand that continues to fall; 
challenges associated with using established scheduling practices under 
current conditions; and the need for schedule flexibility to support 
sustainable loads. IATA and A4A stated that they expect to continue to 
see big drops in advance bookings and many last minute bookings (and 
cancellations) unless and until there is a clear path towards a vaccine 
and/or treatment for COVID-19 and governments lift existing travel bans 
and health requirements. Moreover, IATA and A4A asserted that airport 
capacity is under pressure due to biosecurity measures, leading to 
reduced capacity and increased connection times. IATA and A4A expect 
that the requested waiver would provide the flexibility needed for 
airlines to manage operations in this environment.
    In addition, IATA shared with the FAA a position paper concerning a 
Northern Winter 2020 Slot Waiver. That paper recognizes ``the needs of 
all stakeholders affected by a slot waiver and the desire to ensure a 
swift recovery is supported and not hindered.'' In this paper, IATA 
expresses agreement to the following principles:
     Suspension of the Use-it or Lose-it rule should apply for 
all Level 3 slot coordinated airports globally, ensuring no airline or 
airport is treated differently.
     Level 2 facilitators should prioritize flights cancelled, 
or otherwise not operated as originally intended, for purposes of 
establishing a carrier's operational baseline in the next corresponding 
season.
     The waiver should not apply to slots newly allocated from 
the pool for the Winter 2020/2021 season.
     The waiver should not apply to slots that are held by an 
airline exiting the airport permanently, beginning in the Winter 2020/
2021 period, with no intention to return and no utilization of those 
slots in the Winter 2020/2021 period in keeping with WASG 8.14. This 
does not prevent slot transfers and operator utilization where local 
regulation and legislation allows.
     The waiver should require airlines to hand back slots not 
intended for utilization as soon as possible, but at the latest two 
weeks prior to planned operation in order to receive alleviation. 
Airlines should not hold on to slots they will not utilize but return 
them to the coordinator at the earliest opportunity for reallocation in 
keeping with WASG 8.5.2.
     Consideration for alleviation should be given to slots 
that are returned less than two weeks before operation in the event 
that government advice prevents a planned flight from operating (for

[[Page 57290]]

example, closure of borders or government advice to prevent all but 
essential travel).\5\
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    \5\ The FAA notes that the proposal submitted by IATA and A4A 
references provisions of the new Worldwide Airport Slot Guidelines 
(WASG) Edition 1, effective June 1, 2020; however, the FAA 
reiterates that it continues to apply WSG Edition 9 in the United 
States to the extent there is no conflict with local rules. However, 
the provisions cited by IATA and A4A were included in WSG Edition 9.
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    Moreover, A4A submitted an additional petition, by letter dated 
September 2, 2020, reiterating its request for an extension of the 
relief already provided at slot-controlled airports and IATA Level 2 
airports in the United States for the full Winter 2020/2021 season.
    American Airlines requested an extension of the Summer 2020 full 
season slot usage waiver for the full Winter 2020/2021 IATA slot 
season, by letter dated June 15, 2020. American asserted that the 
waiver would provide flexibility that supports airlines as the demand 
environment recovers slowly. American stated that this flexibility 
allows airlines to create flight schedules based on rapidly evolving 
consumer demand rather than on slot usage requirements.
    In a letter dated July 6, 2020, Delta stated that COVID-19 is a 
highly unusual and unpredictable event that will impact Delta 
operations for the foreseeable future, and asserted that U.S. carriers 
need flexibility from slot usage requirements as the impact of COVID-19 
continues to severely impact air travel. Absent the continuation of 
relief from the minimum slot usage requirements and relief provided at 
IATA Level 2 airports, Delta indicated that critical improvements, 
including service expansion to numerous new destinations from JFK and 
LGA in recent years, as well as capital investments at JFK and LGA for 
expansion and redevelopment, would be at risk. Delta noted that for 
November 2020, it projected operating 50%-60% of its slot portfolio in 
New York and Washington, DC airports, and that travel year over year 
across the Delta network was down 85%.
    Leaders of twenty-nine airlines around the world, including United 
Airlines from the United States, sent a letter addressed to responsible 
slot authorities dated July 14, 2020, requesting a waiver from the 
minimum slot usage requirements during the Winter 2020/2021 season. The 
letter asserts that this waiver is ``critical to . . . manage through 
this crisis, recover, and provide the significant consumer, community, 
competitive, employment, and economic benefits synonymous with 
aviation'' and will ``help stabilize a very tenuous operational and 
commercial environment.'' This coalition further asserted that 
``[a]irlines should not have to fly empty planes in order to hold their 
historical slot rights--it is inefficient and irresponsible.'' In its 
cover letter to the coalition's submission, United Airlines emphasizes 
that COVID-19 continues to cause an unprecedented crisis as ``cases are 
rising around the globe and the industry is nowhere near beginning a 
durable, economic recovery.''
    The AFRAA submitted a letter to the FAA dated August 31, 2020, 
stating that COVID-19 affected air transport adversely, estimating a 
loss of about $8.8 billion for African airlines by the end of 2020, and 
noting that professionals forecast that 2019 activity levels may not 
return until 2023. AFRAA requests relief until 2022 at JFK, EWR, and 
ORD on behalf of its members.
    In a letter dated September 4, 2020, JetBlue requested a waiver for 
the Winter 2020/2021 season at JFK, LGA, and DCA, as well as 
corresponding relief at EWR, on the basis that the ``airline industry 
continues to suffer from the devastating impact of the COVID-19 global 
pandemic'' and that ``[d]omestic traffic remains down between 70 and 80 
percent.'' The letter states that a waiver would ``allow JetBlue to 
only fly flights commensurate with demand'' and ultimately resume full 
slot utilization as soon as practical.

Submissions Disfavoring Relief for the Full Winter 2020/2021 Season

    By letter dated July 9, 2020, ACI-NA expressed opposition to any 
additional ``blanket, long-term waiver,'' which ACI-NA asserted would 
``encourag[e] the underutilization of valuable public resources,'' be 
contrary to the public interest, and negatively impact the economic 
viability of airports and the communities they serve. Cautioning that 
it would be premature to consider a waiver for the Winter 2020/2021 
season prior to August 31, 2020, ACI-NA stated that ``[a]lthough it is 
very difficult to determine the impact, duration and recovery of the 
pandemic, [ACI-NA] is seeing evidence of a steady recovery in passenger 
throughput at [all U.S. slot-controlled and designated IATA Level 2 
airports], which is expected to continue in the future.'' ACI-NA 
contended that a blanket waiver will effectively block carriers that 
are able to provide service from providing price and service 
competition the public is willing and able to consume, and noted 
difficulty reconciling public statements of large carriers 
acknowledging the need to drastically reduce service while also seeking 
to ``retain access privileges to the most lucrative and constrained 
facilities.'' ACI-NA expressed concern that further waiver relief could 
impair the industry's ability to react to the changed environment 
brought on by COVID-19. ACI-NA further advocated that, to the degree 
that slot waivers may be necessary for the Winter 2020/2021 season, 
``such relief should only be granted, if at all, closer to the affected 
season, when the justification can be properly assessed, and only to 
the extent that these measures are temporary and targeted, matched to 
the parameters of the crisis and based on evidence related to the 
specific markets at the particular times.''
    By letter dated July 15, 2020, Spirit Airlines expressed opposition 
to an extension of the previously granted slot usage waiver and relief 
announced at IATA Level 2 airports in the United States. Spirit 
predicted that ``legacy incumbent carriers'' will continue to seek 
further extensions of the waiver in future seasons, as they have 
publicly acknowledged that a full recovery to pre-COVID demand is not 
expected for at least three years. Agreeing, in part, with ACI-NA's 
submission, Spirit further asserted that an extension of the waiver 
``would have a pernicious effect on both the short and long-term 
realignment of the industry following the pandemic and is contrary to 
the public interest'' and therefore ``public policy should be directed 
toward enabling the free market to reallocate the use of these slots/
authorizations--a public resource--such that passengers receive greater 
choice among offerings in these key markets.''
    In a July 20, 2020, letter, Allegiant Air, through counsel, 
expressed support for the views expressed by both ACI-NA and Spirit. 
Opposing an extension of the existing relief provided and stressing the 
``primacy of the public interest over slot holders' interests,'' 
Allegiant argued that ``the existence of a public health crisis does 
not justify hoarding of public assets . . . by any carrier when others 
are prepared to utilize at least some of those assets, benefitting the 
public.''
    In a submission on July 21, 2020, NACA, which represents 17 air 
carriers that operate under 14 CFR part 121, likewise expressed 
opposition to an extension of the previously granted slot usage waiver 
at U.S. slot-controlled airports and relief at IATA Level 2 airports in 
the United States through the full Winter 2020/2021 season. NACA 
expressed support for the individual letters submitted by NACA members 
Spirit and Allegiant, as well as the views expressed by ACI-NA. NACA

[[Page 57291]]

asserted that ``[p]ermitting legacy carriers to reduce operations for 
at least another six months would effectively allow them to control 
capacity and raise fares at a critical time when the traveling public 
needs lower fares.''
    In a letter dated August 21, 2020, Travelers United (formerly 
Consumer Travel Alliance) objected to an extension of slot usage 
waivers at DCA, LGA, and JFK, arguing that further relief ``will thwart 
the free competitive market's operation.'' Travelers United stated that 
since late March of 2020, incumbent slot holders at DCA, LGA, and JFK 
have reduced their overall flight operations by approximately 60% to 
70% versus a year ago. According to Travelers United, whereas ``it will 
be years before the legacy airlines can resume the service levels 
present in 2019,'' some low cost carriers and ultra-low cost carriers 
``are ready and willing to provide new service at slot-controlled 
airports if allowed to do so.'' Travelers United asserted that ``[t]he 
free market should be allowed to reallocate the use of these slots, 
which are actually owned by the public, to airlines that are willing to 
provide service for the public.''
    Southwest Airlines advocated a ``middle ground approach'' to 
balance competing stakeholder interests, in a letter dated August 17, 
2020. Southwest expressed support for one final extension of the relief 
already provided, through December 31, 2020, ``to provide airlines with 
planning certainty for the rest of the year.'' Southwest stated that 
``granting usage waivers that would allow slot holders to retain all 
their slots season after season without providing flights for consumers 
is not in the public interest.'' Accordingly, Southwest urged that as 
part of the suggested final extension, the FAA should ``make clear no 
additional blanket or individual carrier slot usage waivers will be 
granted'' in connection with COVID-19.

Discussion of Proposed Relief for Slot Holders at U.S. Slot-Controlled 
Airports (DCA/JFK/LGA)

    At the present time, COVID-19 continues to present a highly unusual 
and unpredictable condition that is beyond the control of carriers. 
Passenger demand has decreased dramatically as a result of COVID-19 
even as there are some signs of limited recovery in some markets and 
restructuring of airline operations. The ultimate duration and severity 
of COVID-19 impacts on passenger demand in the United States and 
internationally remain unclear. Even after COVID-19 is contained, 
impacts on passenger demand are likely to continue for some time. The 
FAA acknowledges the need for slot holders to have some flexibility in 
decision-making as the severe impacts of the COVID-19 public health 
crisis continue. However, the Office of the Secretary of Transportation 
(OST) and the FAA note that what starts as a highly unusual and 
unpredictable condition may eventually become foreseeable. Indeed, many 
airlines may well be on their way to restructuring their operations in 
response to a new, albeit volatile, environment. As asserted in some 
stakeholder submissions recounted above, there may come a point in time 
in which ongoing waivers to preserve pre-COVID slot holdings could 
impede the ability of airports and airlines to provide services that 
may benefit the economy. The FAA acknowledges the interests of carriers 
with limited or no access to constrained airports in the United States 
and the interests of airports in serving their local community and 
rebounding from this crisis. Further, the FAA agrees that any 
additional relief from the minimum slot usage requirements at U.S. 
slot-controlled airports should be narrowly tailored to afford 
increased access to carriers that are willing and able to operate at 
these airports, even if on an ad hoc basis until such time as slots 
revert to the FAA for reallocation under the governing rules and 
regulations at each slot-controlled airport.
    The FAA therefore proposes to make available to slot holders at 
DCA, JFK, and LGA a waiver from the minimum slot usage requirements due 
to continuing COVID-19 impacts through March 27, 2021, subject to each 
of the following proposed conditions:

    (1) All slots not intended to be operated would be required to 
be returned at least on a monthly basis 4 weeks prior to the start 
of the month (for example, by November 1, carriers must hand back 
all December slots not intended to be operated due to COVID-19) to 
allow other carriers an opportunity to operate these slots on an ad 
hoc basis without historic precedence; \6\
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    \6\ Under this proposal, carriers will provide a minimum of 4 
weeks' notice, and notifications will occur on a monthly basis, by 
the first of the month. Two additional examples to illustrate the 
condition include: (1) If a carrier wishes to cancel its entire 
December schedule, it must provide notification by November 1; (2) 
if a carrier wishes to cancel its schedules from December 16-20, it 
must also provide notice by November 1. Note that the usual process 
for treating slots as used for the Thanksgiving and Winter holiday 
periods provided by 14 CFR 93.227(l) of the High Density Rule and 
the JFK and LGA orders will still apply and will not be superseded 
by this proposal.
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    (2) The waiver would not be made available for net newly-
allocated slots eligible for historical precedence, based on 
allocation decisions made prior to the start of the Winter 2020/2021 
scheduling season; and
    (3) The waiver would not apply to slots newly transferred on an 
uneven basis (i.e., via one-way slot transaction/lease) after [DATE 
14 DAYS AFTER PUBLICATION OF FINAL DECISION IN THE FEDERAL REGISTER] 
for the duration of the transfer. Slots granted historic precedence 
for subsequent seasons based on this proposed relief would not be 
eligible for transfer if the slot holder ceases all operations at 
the airport.\7\
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    \7\ The FAA notes that this provision is not intended to apply 
to continuing long-term transfers that are already part of the 
operating environment.

    The FAA would apply each of these conditions in considering whether 
a slot-holding carrier has justification for a waiver based on the non-
use of a slot due to COVID-19 impacts. However, the FAA in coordination 
with OST, will consider granting exceptions from any or all of these 
conditions if a government's action (i.e., travel restriction) directly 
prevents the operation of a flight on a particular route that a carrier 
otherwise intended to operate. This exception would apply under 
extraordinary circumstances only in which a carrier is able to 
demonstrate an inability to operate a particular flight or comply with 
the conditions of the proposed waiver due to a governmental 
restriction. Carriers would be expected to provide documentation 
demonstrating that the carrier made all efforts to operate a flight and 
that it was unable to determine with reasonable advance notice whether 
it could do so.
    This proposal reflects a delicate balancing of the competing 
interests of carriers interested in conducting ad hoc operations 
(including carriers not already operating at the airport) against the 
interests of incumbent carriers seeking maximum flexibility in making 
scheduling and operational decisions in an uncertain environment with 
ongoing COVID-19-related impacts. Further, this proposal reflects a 
compromise position as between interests of airports, incumbent 
carriers, and carriers seeking new or increased access with respect to 
the timeline specified for handback, which is 4-8 weeks before the date 
the operation would have been conducted.
    The FAA believes this approach is appropriate to provide carriers 
with flexibility during this unprecedented situation and to support the 
long-term viability of carrier operations at slot-controlled airports 
while also supporting economic recovery. This proposal balances the 
interests of carriers that are willing and able to resume operations 
more quickly, and reduces the potential for a long-term waiver to 
suppress flight operations for which demand exists. The FAA believes 
this proposal is largely consistent with many of the principles voiced 
by IATA in its advocacy for a full season Winter

[[Page 57292]]

2020/2021 waiver. Continuing relief for this additional period subject 
to the proposed conditions is reasonable to balance the interests of 
all stakeholders to the greatest extent possible under established slot 
management rules and regulations in the United States. While the FAA is 
proposing continued, albeit conditional, relief through the Winter 
2020/2021 season, carriers should not assume that further relief on the 
basis of COVID-19 will be forthcoming beyond the end of the Winter 
2020/2021 scheduling season.
    If the FAA extends relief at slot-controlled airports to March 27, 
2021, the FAA expects that foreign slot coordinators will provide 
reciprocal relief to U.S. carriers. To date, many coordinators have 
indicated that they will similarly provide additional relief on a 
conditional basis. To the extent that U.S. carriers fly to a foreign 
carrier's home jurisdiction and that home jurisdiction does not offer 
reciprocal relief to U.S. carriers, the FAA may determine not to grant 
a waiver to that foreign carrier. A foreign carrier seeking a waiver 
may wish to ensure that the responsible authority of the foreign 
carrier's home jurisdiction submits a statement by email to 
[email protected] confirming reciprocal treatment of the slot 
holdings of U.S. carriers.

Discussion of Proposed Relief for Operators at U.S. Designated IATA 
Level 2 Airports (EWR/LAX/ORD/SFO)

    The FAA also proposes to extend through December 31, 2020, with 
conditions, its COVID-19-related policy for prioritizing flights 
canceled at designated IATA Level 2 airports in the United States, for 
purposes of establishing a carrier's operational baseline in that 
portion of the next corresponding season. The FAA recognizes that some 
carriers may still be considering schedule plans and assessing demand. 
An extension of relief through the end of the calendar year would 
provide time for carriers at IATA Level 2 airports to make schedule 
decisions, market flights, and plan for aircraft utilization, crew, and 
facilities for the initial months of the Winter 2020/2021 scheduling 
season before a return to the standard schedule review and facilitation 
process.
    The FAA has previously approved schedules by carriers for the 
Winter 2020/2021 scheduling season and carriers could choose to operate 
as approved, apply this proposed policy through December 31, 2020, or 
submit new schedule proposals for the season. The application of this 
policy would be contingent on carriers notifying the FAA of any 
previously approved Winter 2020/2021 schedules no longer intended to be 
operated, at least on a monthly basis, four weeks prior to the start of 
the month (for example, by November 1, carriers must notify the FAA of 
all approved schedules not intended to be operated in December due to 
COVID-19), in order to make these times available for use on an ad hoc 
basis by other carriers. Consistent with the proposal for Level 3 
airports, the FAA proposes to consider, in coordination with OST, 
allowing exceptions to this condition at Level 2 airports under 
extraordinary circumstances if a government's action (i.e., travel 
restrictions) directly prevents the operation of a flight on a 
particular route that the carrier would otherwise intend to operate.
    The more limited relief proposed at Level 2 airports as compared to 
slot-controlled airports reflects that the IATA Level 2 construct 
differs from the rules and process in place at slot-controlled airports 
in the United States and at airports globally under the WSG and WASG. 
The concepts of historic rights, series of slots, or minimum usage 
requirements do not exist under the Level 2 construct. The voluntary, 
cooperative nature of Level 2 schedule facilitation is less amenable to 
a policy that provides priority for flights that are not operated for 
extended periods of time while potentially denying access to carriers 
that seek to add service.
    Under this proposal, a carrier could receive priority for flights 
only through December 31, 2020, that were approved but are not operated 
due to COVID-19-related impacts. For flights after December 31, 2020, 
priority would be based on approved schedules as operated for the 
balance of the scheduling season. The FAA would also provide priority 
consideration in Winter 2021/2022 for flights approved on an ad hoc 
basis in Winter 2020/2021 if there is sufficient availability within 
the scheduling limits.

Invitation for Comment

    The FAA seeks views and information regarding this proposal. 
Interested persons are invited to submit comments why the FAA should or 
should not finalize this decision as proposed, and to submit any 
information relevant to making this decision. Written views and 
supporting data may be submitted no later than September 22, 2020, by 
email to the Slot Administration Office at [email protected]. 
Information submitted to the FAA may be subject to disclosure under the 
Freedom of Information Act.
    The FAA recognizes that commenters may seek to submit business 
information that is both customarily and actually treated as 
confidential. Confidential Business Information (CBI) is commercial or 
financial information that is both customarily and actually treated as 
private by its owner. Under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) (5 
U.S.C. 552), CBI is exempt from public disclosure. If your comments 
responsive to this notice contain commercial or financial information 
that is customarily treated as private, that you actually treat as 
private, and that is relevant or responsive to this notice, it is 
important that you clearly designate the submitted comments, or any 
relevant portions thereof, as CBI. Please mark each page of your 
submission containing CBI as ``PROPIN.'' The FAA will treat such marked 
submissions as confidential under FOIA, and will not place confidential 
content in the public docket for this notice. Any commentary that the 
FAA receives that is not specifically designated as CBI will be placed 
in the public docket for this notice. The FAA will take the necessary 
steps to protect properly designated information to the extent 
allowable by law.
    After receiving and reviewing comments, the FAA anticipates 
subsequently providing notice of its final decision.

    Issued in Washington, DC, on September 11, 2020.
Lorelei Dinges Peter,
Assistant Chief Counsel for Regulations.
[FR Doc. 2020-20434 Filed 9-11-20; 2:00 pm]
BILLING CODE 4910-13-P