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 2021/2022 Scheduling Season, 58134-58141 [2021-22988]

Download as PDF 58134 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 200 / Wednesday, October 20, 2021 / Notices Delegation of Authority No. 236–3 of August 28, 2000. Matthew R. Lussenhop, Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Department of State. [FR Doc. 2021–22794 Filed 10–19–21; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4710–05–P DEPARTMENT OF STATE [Public Notice: 11564] Dated: September 30, 2021. Brian McKeon, Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources, Department of State. Review of Foreign Terrorist Organizations Designation for Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam Pursuant to section 219(a)(4)(C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended (8 U.S.C. 1189(a)(4)(C)), the Department of State is undertaking a review of the designation of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. In making its determination, the Department of State will accept written statements or other documentary materials submitted on behalf of interested parties and the above-named organization by its representatives. Such materials must be submitted by November 2, 2021, to: The Coordinator for Counterterrorism, United States Department of State, 2201 C Street NW, Washington, DC 20520. This notice shall be published in the Federal Register. Dated: October 7, 2021. John T. Godfrey, Acting Coordinator for Counterterrorism. [FR Doc. 2021–22783 Filed 10–19–21; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4710–AD–P [Public Notice: 11565] Determination Under Section 7014(b) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2020 Pursuant to the authority vested in me by section 7014(b) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2020 (FY 2020 SFOAA), and Department of State Delegation of Authority 513, I hereby determine that a significant change in circumstances makes it unlikely that the following funds specifically designated for particular programs or activities by the FY 2020 SFOAA or any other Act can be obligated during the original periods of availability of such funds: $126,926,815 in the Economic Support Fund (ESF) account; $5,000,000 in the lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with NOTICES1 SUMMARY: 17:55 Oct 19, 2021 [FR Doc. 2021–22775 Filed 10–19–21; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4710–10–P 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 2021/2022 Scheduling Season Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Department of Transportation (DOT). ACTION: Extension of limited, conditional waiver of the minimum slot usage requirement for international operations only. AGENCY: The FAA has determined to extend through March 26, 2022, the Coronavirus (COVID–19)-related limited, conditional 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 30, 2021, for international operations only. Similarly, the FAA has determined to extend through March 26, 2022, its COVID–19-related limited, conditional 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 next corresponding season, for international operations only. These IATA Level 2 airports include Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD), Newark SUMMARY: DEPARTMENT OF STATE VerDate Sep<11>2014 Global Health Programs (GHP)—USAID account; $14,000,000 in the International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement (INCLE) account; and $18,000,000 in the Nonproliferation, Anti-terrorism, Demining, and Related Programs (NADR) account. This determination shall be published in the Federal Register and, along with the accompanying Memorandum of Justification, shall be transmitted to Congress. Jkt 256001 PO 00000 Frm 00081 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Liberty International Airport (EWR), Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), and San Francisco International Airport (SFO). This relief is limited to slots and approved operating times used by any carrier for international operations only, through March 26, 2022, and will be subject to the same terms and conditions, with minor modifications, that the FAA has already applied to the relief that remains available through October 30, 2021. DATES: The relief announced in this notice is available for the Winter 2021/ 2022 scheduling season, which runs from October 31, 2021, through March 26, 2022. Compliance with the rolling four-week return condition on the relief announced in this notice is required beginning on October 25, 2021. Compliance with all other conditions remains in effect without change from prior seasons. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Al Meilus, Manager, Slot Administration, AJR–G, Federal Aviation Administration, 800 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20591; telephone (202) 267–2822; email Al.Meilus@faa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background On March 16, 2020, the FAA granted a limited waiver of the minimum slot usage requirements 1 to carriers operating at all slot-controlled airports in the United States (DCA, JFK, and LGA) 2 and related relief to carriers operating at designated IATA Level 2 airports in the United States (EWR, LAX, ORD, SFO) due to the extraordinary impacts on the demand for air travel resulting from the COVID– 19 pandemic.3 Since the initial slot usage waiver and related relief was 1 The FAA has authority for developing ‘‘plans and policy for the use of the navigable airspace’’ and for assigning ‘‘by regulation or order the use of the airspace necessary to ensure the safety of aircraft and the efficient use of airspace.’’ 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 JFK and LGA. See Operating Limitations at John F. Kennedy International Airport, 85 FR 58258 (Sep. 18, 2020); Operating Limitations at New York LaGuardia Airport, 85 FR 58255 (Sep. 18, 2020). 2 Although DCA and LGA are not designated as IATA Level 3 slot-controlled airports given that these airports primarily serve domestic destinations, the FAA limits operations at these airports via rules at DCA and an Order at LGA that are equivalent to IATA Level 3. See FN 1. The FAA reiterates that the relief provided in the March 16, 2020, notice (85 FR 15018), the April 17, 2020, notice (85 FR 21500), the October 7, 2020, notice (85 FR 63335), and this policy statement, extends to all allocated slots, including slots allocated by exemption. 3 Notice of Limited Waiver of the Slot Usage Requirement, 85 FR 15018 (Mar. 16, 2020). E:\FR\FM\20OCN1.SGM 20OCN1 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 200 / Wednesday, October 20, 2021 / Notices lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with NOTICES1 provided, the FAA has taken action to extend the relief provided on three occasions subject to certain substantive changes, including the addition of conditions, as the COVID–19 situation continued to evolve.4 The most recent limited, conditional extension of COVID–19-related relief was issued by the FAA on January 13, 2021, and is due to expire on October 31, 2021.5 The FAA issued a notice on September 16, 2021, inviting comment on its proposal to extend through March 26, 2022, the COVID–19-related limited, conditional waiver of the minimum slot usage requirement at United States (U.S.) slot controlled and IATA Level 2 airports that the FAA has already made available through October 30, 2021, for international operations only.6 In its proposal the FAA explained it would generally evaluate any request for relief from U.S. carriers for the Winter 2021/ 2022 scheduling season based on historical levels of operations to foreign points as demonstrated in published schedules and that domestic carriers seeking relief for a particular operation under the waiver will need to provide the FAA, if not readily apparent from FAA records and historic published schedule data, alternative supplemental information that predates FAA’s proposal to demonstrate intent to use a slot or approved operating time for an international destination. The notice explained that international operations eligible for a waiver at U.S. slotcontrolled and IATA Level 2 airports under FAA’s proposal would be subject to all of the same conditions and policies already in effect, with minor modifications. In addition, the FAA invited comment and supporting information to demonstrate why the FAA should or should not finalize its proposed decision. In particular, U.S. carriers were invited to provide individualized responses to several questions concerning FAA’s proposal and the continuing need for relief due to COVID–19. 4 Notice of Extension of Limited Waiver of the Minimum Slot Usage Requirement, 85 FR 21500 (Apr. 17, 2020); Extension of Limited Waiver of the Minimum Slot Usage Requirement, 85 FR 63335 (Oct. 7, 2020); and FAA Policy Statement: Limited, Conditional Extension of COVID–19 Related Relief for the Summer 2021 Scheduling Season (Docket No. FAA–2020–0862–0302). 5 FAA Policy Statement: Limited, Conditional Extension of COVID–19 Related Relief for the Summer 2021 Scheduling Season (Docket No. FAA–2020–0862–0302). 6 Notice of proposed extension of a limited, conditional waiver of the minimum slot usage requirement for all international operations, 86 FR 52114 (Sep. 20, 2021). VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:55 Oct 19, 2021 Jkt 256001 Current COVID–19 Situation Since FAA’s January 13, 2021, policy statement granting a limited, conditional extension of COVID–19related relief at slot-controlled airports and IATA Level 2 airports in the United States, COVID–19 has continued to cause disruption globally and the timeline for recovery from this global pandemic remains uncertain. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports COVID–19 cases in more than 200 countries, areas, and territories worldwide.7 For the week ending October 10, 2021, the WHO reported 2.8 million new COVID–19 cases and just over 46,000 new deaths, bringing the cumulative total to more than 237 million reported COVID–19 cases and more than 4.8 million deaths globally since the start of the COVID–19 pandemic.8 The WHO reports that it is monitoring multiple variants globally; currently the WHO has classified four different variants as ‘‘variants of concern’’ and two different variants as ‘‘variants of interest.’’ 9 The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is monitoring all variants of COVID–19 in the United States.10 The CDC has listed the Delta variant as a variant of concern and warns that it spreads more easily and quickly and may cause more severe cases than the other variants.11 However, the CDC reports that so far, studies suggest that the current Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved or authorized vaccines do work against the circulating variants.12 On January 21, 2021, President Biden announced the National Strategy for the COVID–19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness, a national strategy to beat the COVID–19 pandemic.13 The strategy is a comprehensive plan that starts with restoring public trust and mounting an aggressive, safe, and effective vaccination campaign while continuing with the steps that stop the spread like expanded masking, testing, and social 7 https://covid19.who.int/table. 8 COVID–19 weekly epidemiological update, October 13, 2021, available at: https://www.who.int/ emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/ situation-reports. See also https://covid19.who.int/ for WHO COVID–19 Dashboard with the most current number of cases reported. 9 https://www.who.int/en/activities/trackingSARS-CoV-2-variants/. 10 Center for Disease Control (CDC), About Variants of the Virus that Causes COVID–19, available at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019ncov/variants/variant.html. 11 Id. 12 Id. See also https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/ 2019-ncov/vaccines/effectiveness/work.html. 13 https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/ uploads/2021/01/National-Strategy-for-the-COVID19-Response-and-Pandemic-Preparedness.pdf. PO 00000 Frm 00082 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 58135 distancing. On September 9, 2021, President Biden announced a sixpronged approach to expand vaccinations, provide booster shots, keep schools safely open, increase testing and masking, protect the economic recovery, and improve care for those with COVID–19.14 Currently three COVID–19 vaccines have been authorized for emergency use or approved by the FDA.15 As of October 17, 2021, 57 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated and 65.9 percent of Americans have received at least one dose.16 Increased rates of vaccination in the U.S., along with other measures to stop the spread have resulted in an overall decline of the U.S. COVID–19 infection rate since the previous COVID–19 waiver proceeding. However, cases increased again following the U.S. reaching its lowest rates of infection experienced since the week of March 16, 2020 (79,358 confirmed new cases for the week of June 14, 2021, reflected the lowest rate of infection since the week of March, 16, 2020).17 When the FAA extended COVID–19-related relief on January 13, 2021, the number of confirmed new cases of COVID–19 in the U.S. for the week of January 11, 2021, based on WHO data, was 1,580,016.18 For the week of October 3, 2021, which is the most recent week for which data is available, the WHO reports 653,837 confirmed new cases in the United States.19 The U.S. is attempting to distribute vaccines globally to help vaccination numbers improve.20 On August 18, 2021, President Biden announced that in the months of June and July the United States had donated 100 million doses and that in the coming months of fall and early winter another 100 million boosters and 200 million 14 President Biden’s COVID–19 Plan | The White House. 15 https://www.fda.gov/emergency-preparednessand-response/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19/ covid-19-vaccines. 16 CDC, COVID–19 Vaccinations in the United States, updated October 17, 2021, available at: https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/ #vaccinations. 17 https://covid19.who.int/region/amro/country/ us. 18 FAA Policy Statement: Limited, Conditional Extension of COVID–19 Related Relief for the Summer 2021 Scheduling Season. (Docket No. FAA–2020–0862–0302). See also https://covid19. who.int/region/amro/country/us. 19 COVID–19 weekly epidemiological update, October 13, 2021, available at: https://www.who.int/ emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/ situation-reports See also https://covid19.who.int/ region/amro/country/us. 20 https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/ statements-releases/2021/06/03/statement-bypresident-joe-biden-on-global-vaccine-distribution/. E:\FR\FM\20OCN1.SGM 20OCN1 58136 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 200 / Wednesday, October 20, 2021 / Notices additional doses will be donated to other countries.21 The United States is moving to a system of vaccine verification to facilitate international travel to/from the United States. There remain a number of travel advisories and foreign government restrictions that are affecting the demand and operational flexibility of U.S. and foreign carriers that serve Level 2 and Level 3 airports from some international destinations. Standard Applicable to This Waiver Proceeding lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with NOTICES1 The FAA reiterates the standards applicable to petitions for waivers of the minimum slot usage requirements in effect at DCA, JFK, and LGA, as discussed in FAA’s initial decision granting relief due to COVID–19 impacts.22 At JFK and LGA, each slot must be used at least 80 percent of the time.23 Slots not meeting the minimum usage requirements will be withdrawn. The FAA may waive the 80 percent usage requirement in the event of a highly unusual and unpredictable condition that is beyond the control of the slot-holding air carrier and which affects carrier operations for a period of five consecutive days or more.24 At DCA, any slot not used at least 80 percent of the time over a two-month period also will be recalled by the FAA.25 The FAA may waive this minimum usage requirement in the event of a highly unusual and unpredictable condition that is beyond the control of the slot-holding carrier and which exists for a period of nine or more days.26 When making decisions concerning historical rights to allocated slots, including whether to grant a waiver of the usage requirement, the FAA seeks to ensure the efficient use of valuable aviation infrastructure while maximizing the benefits to airport users and the traveling public. This minimum 21 https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/ speeches-remarks/2021/08/18/remarks-bypresident-biden-on-fighting-the-covid-19-pandemic2/. 22 See 85 FR 15018 (Mar. 16, 2020). 23 Operating Limitations at John F. Kennedy International Airport, 85 FR 58258 (Sep. 18, 2020); Operating Limitations at New York LaGuardia Airport, 85 FR 47065 at 58255 (Sep. 18, 2020). 24 At JFK, historical rights to operating authorizations and withdrawal of those rights due to insufficient usage will be determined on a seasonal basis and in accordance with the schedule approved by the FAA prior to the commencement of the applicable season. See JFK Order, 85 FR at 58260. At LGA, any operating authorization not used at least 80 percent of the time over a twomonth period will be withdrawn by the FAA. See LGA Order, 85 FR at 58257. 25 See 14 CFR 93.227(a). 26 See 14 CFR 93.227(j). VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:55 Oct 19, 2021 Jkt 256001 usage requirement is expected to accommodate routine cancelations under all but the most unusual circumstances. Carriers proceed at risk if, at any time prior to a final decision, they make decisions in anticipation of the FAA granting a slot usage waiver. Summary of Comments and Information Submitted The FAA received comments on the proposal from 32 stakeholders and other persons including IATA, Airlines for America (A4A), the Cargo Airline Association (CAA), Airports Council International-North America (ACI–NA), Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ), Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), Exhaustless Inc. (Exhaustless), 4 U.S. carriers, 12 foreign carriers, 7 individuals, and 2 anonymous commenters.27 A majority of commenters including IATA, A4A, and all commenting U.S. and foreign carriers except for CAA, generally support FAA’s proposal though some commenting carriers have requested certain modifications. In addition, the FAA received one clarifying question from PaxEx.Aero. Commenters Who Support FAA’s Proposal MWAA, EVA Air, Etihad Airways, Lot Polish Airlines, China Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Aer Lingus, Air New Zealand, British Airways, and Emirates commented supporting FAA’s proposal. MWAA supports ‘‘the FAA’s decision to limit the continuation of the conditional waiver to international operations’’ and that the ‘‘restoration of the 80 percent slot utilization requirement for domestic operations recognizes that domestic air travel is rebounding.’’ The foreign carriers that commented in support of FAA’s proposal generally stated that international demand for air travel has not yet recovered from COVID–19related impacts and that FAA’s proposal provides the airline community needed flexibility and supports the long-term viability of airlines operations and networks. Commenters Who Support FAA’s Proposal With Requested Modifications Avianca Airlines, Delta Air Lines (Delta), A4A, IATA, ACI–NA, Iberia Airlines, Tap Air Portugal, PANYNJ, 27 The FAA notes that two carriers submitted comments marked as containing proprietary information (PROPIN). The information contained within these comments was consistent with information submitted by other airline industry commenters. The FAA will maintain the confidentiality of this information to the extent permitted by law. PO 00000 Frm 00083 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Spirit Airlines (Spirit), United Airlines (United), Southwest Airlines (Southwest), and one individual support FAA’s proposal but made additional requests or comments. IATA states that it agrees with the FAA that ‘‘the industry has not seen any meaningful recovery from the circumstances it faced when the FAA last provided a waiver for the Summer 2021 season.’’ IATA believes that this ‘‘combined with the late notice of this relief so close to season start, warrants the full, conditional waiver to be extended for the Winter 2021–22 season.’’ However, IATA states that it ‘‘believes that the WASB offers the most sustainable solution.’’ 28 In addition IATA asks the FAA to reconsider the proposed return date of October 4, 2021, and to instead set the return date ‘‘two weeks after the publication of the final order in the Federal Register.’’ A4A supports FAA’s proposal stating that it provides ‘‘operational certainty’’, ‘‘simplicity’’, and ‘‘fairness and equity.’’ A4A submitted additional requests including that FAA ‘‘maintain a reciprocity requirement’’, ‘‘incorporate flexibility into slot return rules to allow the initial slot return deadline to be 2 weeks from the Final FR publication’’, ‘‘clarify that the historic baseline is the Winter 2019 season’’, and ‘‘support international slot usage’’. A4A requests the FAA ‘‘permit a two-week slot return notice requirement for the first two weeks after a final notice is issued and thereafter revert to a four week slot return notice requirement’’ given the timing of the final notice. A4A also asks the FAA to ‘‘clarify that the Historic Baseline is the Winter 2019 Season.’’ Specifically, A4A asks that the FAA to ‘‘permit carriers to provide evidence that would demonstrate the W19 schedule and the historical international slot times to account for the many adjustments that must be made over time.’’ In addition A4A asks that the FAA not use the Official Airline Guide data published at the time the final notice is issued because ‘‘the U.S. is one of the last countries to finalize a W21 policy and carriers have already taken action to adjust some published schedules based on previous slot return deadlines imposed by foreign jurisdictions.’’ Finally, A4A asks that the FAA support international slot usage by giving carriers ‘‘the ability to utilize one-half of a historic international slot pair and waive the 28 A summary of the Worldwide Airport Slot Board (WASB) proposal for Winter 2021/2022 was included in an annex to IATA’s June 4, 2021 petition, which has been placed in the docket for this proceeding. E:\FR\FM\20OCN1.SGM 20OCN1 lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with NOTICES1 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 200 / Wednesday, October 20, 2021 / Notices other half to maximize utilization of planned operations.’’ Delta supports the FAA’s proposal stating that ‘‘COVID–19 continues to cause disruption in global air travel and the timeline for recovery remains fluid and unpredictable.’’ Noting that ‘‘in contrast to the resurgence of domestic travel we are seeing in the United States, the global pandemic continues to depress international air travel demand—necessitating the extension of the existing slot waiver framework for international flying.’’ While Delta fully supports the Department’s proposal in principle, Delta asks ‘‘the Department to modify the initial October 4, 2021 slot return deadline proposed in the notice to avoid compliance issues.’’ Specifically, Delta asks for a two-week extension of the four-week advance slot return condition of the waiver. Finally, Delta provided responses to the individualized questions posed to carriers in FAA’s proposal. United commented that it adopts and incorporates by reference the comments filed by A4A as well as supports and endorses IATA’s comments supporting the full season extension of FAA’s existing conditional waiver. United supports FAA’s proposal stating that ‘‘the proposed COVID–19 Relief Notice continues to recognize the importance to international commerce of granting reciprocal waivers and the significance of affording parallel relief to Level 2 and Level 3 airports and promotes certainty, stability, and fairness across the industry.’’ In addition, United urges the FAA ‘‘to not grant slot historic status/ historic precedence at Level 3 airports or priority consideration at Level 2 airports to ad hoc movements allocated during the Winter 2020 season unless the airport is below the declared capacity limit at the time of the ad hoc movement.’’ Moreover, United disagrees that COVID–19 is causing structural and operational changes to the airline industry and asserts that ‘‘the pandemic is not the new normal.’’ Finally, United provided responses to the individualized questions posed to carriers in FAA’s proposal. Spirit comments that it supports FAA’s proposal to end the ‘‘limited, conditional waiver of the minimum slot usage requirement for domestic operations.’’ Spirit notes that it does not oppose continuing the waiver ‘‘for an additional season for international operations.’’ However, Spirit states that it ‘‘assumes the FAA will continue to approve operations by carriers that have been operating with otherwise unused international slots and authorizations during the current season to continue using those operating times if the holder VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:55 Oct 19, 2021 Jkt 256001 does not reinstate service for the Winter 21–22 season.’’ In addition, Spirit states that it ‘‘supports the FAA’s plan to require domestic carriers to establish that specific slot/authorizations were in fact used for international operations pre-pandemic.’’ Spirit asks the FAA ‘‘to remain vigilant to prevent large domestic slot holders to use loopholes to retain slots/authorizations using a range of anticompetitive tricks.’’ Southwest supports FAA’s proposal stating that ‘‘recognizing that numerous COVID-related circumstances continue to inhibit international air travel uniquely, the DOT has wisely limited its proposed waiver of slot usage requirements to international operations.’’ In addition, Southwest believes that FAA’s decision not to grant further COVID-related usage waivers for domestic operations will increase competition which will benefit ‘‘travelers, airports, communities, and the national economy.’’ ACI–NA is supportive of FAA’s proposal to ‘‘restore slot utilization requirements for domestic flight beginning in W21.’’ ACI–NA points out that the FAA has stated that ‘‘there may come a point in time 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’’ and ACI–NA believes ‘‘the end of W21 is that point in time.’’ PANYNJ supports FAA’s decision to extend slot usage waivers for international operations only for the Winter 2021/2022 Scheduling Season. PANYNJ states that the decision to enforce utilization requirements for domestic flight ‘‘reflects the strong recovery in domestic demand and will serve the public interest by ensuring valuable airport infrastructure is used to deliver crucial air service to our customers and help drive our region’s economic recovery.’’ PANYNJ requests ‘‘greater visibility and information relative to returned capacity and reallocation under the usage waivers.’’ In addition, PANYNJ asserts that ‘‘carriers that have clearly and publicly communicated the indefinite discontinuation of operations at capacity constrained airports should not be waiver eligible without clear documentation to both FAA and the airport operator of plans to recommence operations within a reasonable timeframe’’ and otherwise PANYNJ recommends ‘‘the slots be returned to the pool for re-allocation.’’ Avianca Airlines supports FAA’s proposal however requests more flexibility in the usage threshold, such as a ‘‘50/50’’ minimum usage PO 00000 Frm 00084 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 58137 requirement, for slots newly allocated for W21. Iberia Airlines supports FAA’s proposal and asserts that ‘‘the recovery period has not yet arrived and that we are still in a period of uncertainty and waiting for demand.’’ In addition, Iberia requests the reciprocity as a condition be removed. Tap Air Portugal supports FAA’s proposal but notes that it will ‘‘have to fight for the reciprocity in the EU, to have real benefits from the relief.’’ Commenters Who Oppose the FAA’s Proposal CAA, seven individuals, two anonymous commenters, and Exhaustless oppose FAA’s proposal to continue COVID–19-related relief for international operations only. CAA opposes FAA’s proposal to extend relief from minimum slot usage requirement for international operations. CAA submits that it is ‘‘in the public interest for the FAA to require carriers that cannot use slots or timings in Winter 2021/2022 Season to return them to the FAA permanently.’’ CAA states that it is ‘‘fully aware of the daunting operating challenges facing both airports and airlines in an environment poisoned by COVID’’ and that ‘‘airlines should not be penalized for their temporary inability to fully utilize their slots and other operating rights as a result of government travel restrictions and drastically reduced passenger demand caused by the COVID pandemic.’’ However, CAA believes that ‘‘the high demand for air cargo and the location and time sensitive nature of the demand for e-commerce air cargo deliveries mean that air cargo services need the opportunity to secure slots and authorizations at peak times with historic rights to close in airports in the northeast as ever before.’’ CAA states that ‘‘the ad hoc slots and authorizations that waivers have made available do not substitute for slots or approved operating times that have a greater likelihood of securing long-term access for association members.’’ In addition, due to the continued national emergency and the roll of all-cargo industry, CAA asserts that ‘‘the slots or authorizations at Level 2 airports not needed by passenger airlines should be available for temporary allocation to cargo airlines rather than being un- or underused.’’ Moreover, CAA urges the FAA to consider ‘‘a longer-term solution to avoid serial, last-minute renewals of slot use waivers in the future’’ and ‘‘begin working toward a long-term plan on rights reallocation to account for the need for expansions and retiming of allcargo services as an important component of competition.’’ Finally, E:\FR\FM\20OCN1.SGM 20OCN1 58138 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 200 / Wednesday, October 20, 2021 / Notices CAA asks that if the FAA extends a limited waiver, that the FAA ‘‘clearly define the basis any U.S. carrier might use to claim a waiver; describe how it will evaluate whether any individual slot or authorization will qualify for a waiver; and permit further public comment on those criteria.’’ The individual and anonymous commenters believe that demand for domestic air travel has not recovered to a point that warrants discontinuing relief and that FAA’s proposal will result in unnecessary flights that would be detrimental from an environmental perspective. However, one individual commenter states that they ‘‘oppose continued slot usage relief’’ because ‘‘gate space is a scarce resource and the FAA should make every effort to utilize this space to maximize productivity and encourage economic recovery with airlines who believe they can successfully repurpose this space.’’ This individual commenter states that they ‘‘favor JetBlue’s opinion that the DOT/ FAA enable a case-by-case evaluation for limited exemptions based on extreme circumstances such as boarder [sic] closure or conditions of entry that represent de facto border closure.’’ Exhaustless opposes FAA’s proposal as unlawful, contending the FAA has no authority to administer runway slots or manage schedules and that ‘‘[t]he only decision before the FAA is whether to voluntarily continue to violate the law or to extricate itself from this regulatory taking and illegal subsidy to a conspiracy.’’ lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with NOTICES1 Clarifying Question PaxEx.Aero sent an email to the FAA slot office on September 17, 2021, asking the FAA to clarify how the Agency will ‘‘determine what slots are international service’’ and if it will be ‘‘from 2019/2020 scheduled levels.’’ The FAA sent a response email on September 20, 2021, that quoted the portion of FAA’s proposal that addressed PaxEx.Aero’s question. A copy of the communication has been included in the docket of this proceeding. Discussion of Continued Relief for International Operations Only for the Winter 2021/2022 Scheduling Season At the present time, U.S. domestic air travel demand and U.S. vaccination rates have reached a level that the FAA believes no longer justifies COVID–19related slot usage relief domestically. However, COVID–19 continues to present a highly unusual and unpredictable condition for international operations that is beyond the control of carriers. As demonstrated VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:55 Oct 19, 2021 Jkt 256001 in comments submitted by carriers and industry advocates, passenger demand for international air travel continues to be depressed as a result of COVID–19. The continuing impacts of COVID–19 on global aviation are dramatic and extraordinary, with an unprecedented decrease in passenger demand for international air travel globally. As with the proposal, the FAA acknowledges the need for slot holders to have some flexibility in decisionmaking, in regard to international operations, as the severe impacts of the COVID–19 pandemic continue globally, but note it is not the policy of the Department of Transportation (DOT) to use slot and Level 2 rules to reserve capacity for historic incumbent carriers until demand returns to predetermined levels. Instead, it is the policy of the DOT to encourage high utilization of scarce public infrastructure. Under the established standard, slot usage waivers are generally used to address short-term, unpredictable shocks to demand or capacity that are beyond carriers’ control. After 19 months of experience, the DOT believes it is becoming apparent that COVID–19 is causing structural and operational changes to the airline industry; the industry is adapting; and the issuance of waivers should not hinder that adaptation. As previously stated, at some point in time, repeated waivers to preserve pre-COVID slot holdings will impede the ability of airports and airlines to provide services that benefit the overall national economy and make appropriate use of scarce public assets. Therefore, the FAA emphasizes that operators should not assume further relief on the basis of COVID–19 for international operations will be forthcoming beyond the end of the Winter 2021/22 scheduling season. Based on the comments received in this proceeding, the FAA has determined to make available to slot holders at DCA, JFK, and LGA a waiver from the minimum slot usage requirements, for international operations only, due to continuing COVID–19 impacts through March 26, 2021, subject to the following conditions: (1) All slots not intended to be operated must be returned at least four weeks prior to the date of the FAAapproved operation to allow other carriers an opportunity to operate these slots on an ad hoc basis without historic precedence. As explained further below, compliance with this condition is required for operations scheduled from November 22, 2021, through the duration of this relief; therefore, carriers must begin notifying the FAA of Winter returns by October 25, 2021. Slots PO 00000 Frm 00085 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 operated as approved on a non-historic basis in Winter 2021/2022 will be given priority over new demands for the same timings in the next equivalent season (Winter 2022/2023) for use on a nonhistoric basis, subject to capacity availability and consistent with established rules and policies in effect in the United States.29 30 Foreign carriers seeking priority under this provision will be required to represent that their home jurisdiction will provide reciprocal priority to U.S. carrier requests of this nature. (2) The waiver does not apply to slots newly allocated for initial use during the Winter 2021/2022 season. New allocations meeting minimum usage requirements remain eligible for historic precedence. The waiver does not apply to historic in-kind slots within any 30minute or 60-minute time period, as applicable, in which a carrier seeks and obtains a similar new allocation (i.e., arrival or departure, air carrier or commuter, if applicable); and, (3) The waiver does not apply to slots newly transferred on an uneven basis (i.e., via one-way slot transaction/lease) since October 15, 2020, for the duration of the transfer.31 Slots transferred prior to this date may benefit from the waiver if all other conditions are met. Slots granted historic precedence for subsequent seasons based on this relief are not eligible for transfer if the slot holder ceases all operations at the airport. In addition, an exception may be granted to these conditions based on any government restriction that prevents or severely restricts international travel to specific airports, destinations (including intermediate points) or 29 Consistent with the FAA’s final policy statement issued January 13, 2021, this priority applies to slot or schedule requests for Winter 2022/ 2023, which are comparable in timing, frequency, and duration to the non-historic ad hoc approvals made by the FAA for Winter 2021/2022. This priority does not affect the historic precedence or priority of slot holders and carriers with schedule approvals, respectively, which meet the conditions of the waiver during Winter 2021/2022 and seek to resume operating in Winter 2022/2023. The FAA may consider this priority in the event that slots with historic precedence become available for permanent allocation by the FAA. 30 Although the FAA is extending the four-week rolling return policy consistent with the Summer 2021 waiver, any carrier returning full-season slots or schedule approvals at an airport outside the United States and associated with a route to the United States will generally be expected to similarly return the complementary full-season U.S. slot or schedule approval to the FAA for reallocation on a non-historic or ad hoc basis. 31 The FAA has determined not to revise this condition to include a buffer period for new transfers to be completed and still benefit from this waiver. Therefore, this policy will remain in effect continuously from the initial effective date of October 16, 2020. E:\FR\FM\20OCN1.SGM 20OCN1 lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with NOTICES1 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 200 / Wednesday, October 20, 2021 / Notices countries for which the slot was held. This exception applies under extraordinary circumstances only in which a carrier is able to demonstrate that the ability to operate a particular flight or comply with the conditions of the proposed waiver is prevented or severely restricted due to an unpredictable official governmental action related to COVID–19. This exception includes minor modifications compared to the exception currently in effect for the Summer 2021 season.32 The FAA seeks to provide greater flexibility in allowing exceptions under certain circumstances based on issues that have arisen in the course of implementing the relief currently available. Official government actions that may qualify for this exception, include— • Government travel restrictions based on nationality, closed borders, government advisories related to COVID–19 that warn against all but essential travel, or complete bans on flights from/to certain countries or geographic areas. • Government restrictions related to COVID–19 on the maximum number of arriving or departing flights and/or the number of passengers on a specific flight or through a specific airport. • Government restrictions on movement or quarantine/isolation measures within the country or region where the airport or destination (including intermediate points) is located. • Government-imposed closure of businesses essential to support aviation activities (e.g., closure of hotels, ground handling suppliers, etc.). • Governmental restrictions on airline crew, including unreasonable entry requirements or unreasonable testing and/or quarantine measures. This exception is being administered by the FAA in coordination with the Office of the Secretary of Transportation (OST). The extraordinary circumstances exception in this slot usage relief is limited to the scope of the relief otherwise provided by this waiver; U.S. carriers should not expect to rely on the extraordinary circumstances exception for relief for domestic operations. Moreover, the FAA has determined to extend through Match 26, 2021, its COVID–19-related policy for prioritizing flights canceled at designated IATA Level 2 airports in the United States (EWR, LAX, ORD and SFO), for purposes of establishing a carrier’s 32 See FAA Policy Statement: Limited, Conditional Extension of COVID–19 Related Relief for the Summer 2021 Scheduling Season (Docket No. FAA–2020–0862–0302). VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:55 Oct 19, 2021 Jkt 256001 operational baseline in the next corresponding season, subject to the following conditions: (1) All schedules as initially submitted by carriers and approved by the FAA and not intended to be operated must be returned at least four weeks prior to the date of the FAAapproved operation to allow other carriers an opportunity to operate these times on an ad hoc basis without historic precedence. Compliance with this condition is required for operations scheduled from November 22, 2021, through the duration of this relief; therefore, carriers must begin notifying the FAA of Winter returns by October 25, 2021. Schedules operated as approved on an ad hoc basis in Winter 2021/2022 will be given priority over new demands for the same timings in the next equivalent season (Winter 2022/2023) for use on an ad hoc basis, subject to capacity availability and consistent with established rules and policies in effect in the United States. Foreign carriers seeking priority under this provision are required to represent that their home jurisdiction will provide reciprocal priority to U.S. carrier requests of this nature; and, (2) The priority for FAA schedules approved for Winter 2021/2022 does not apply to net-newly approved operations for initial use during the Winter 2021/ 2022 season. New approved times will remain eligible for priority consideration in Winter 2022/2023 if actually operated in Winter 2021/2022 according to established processes. Consistent with the final decision for slot-controlled airports, limited exceptions may be granted from either or both of these conditions at Level 2 airports under extraordinary circumstances due to any government restriction that prevents or severely restricts travel to specific airports, destinations (including intermediate points), or countries for which the slot was held, as discussed previously with respect to slot-controlled airports. If the exception is determined not to apply, carriers will be expected to meet the conditions for relief or operate consistent with standard expectations for the Level 2 environment. The FAA believes a conditional extension of relief for international operations only, through March 26, 2022, is reasonable due to fluctuating travel restrictions and ongoing economic and health impacts of COVID–19 internationally. The proposed relief is expected to provide carriers with flexibility during this unprecedented situation and to support the long-term viability of international operations at slot-controlled and IATA PO 00000 Frm 00086 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 58139 Level 2 airports in the United States.33 Continuing relief for this additional period is reasonable to mitigate the impacts on passenger demand for international air travel resulting from the spread of COVID–19 worldwide. The current waiver policy was developed based on a balancing of various conflicting stakeholder interests to the extent permissible and within the bounds of the current slot rules and schedule policies in effect in the United States. None of the comments supporting alternative proposals have persuaded the FAA that this policy should be supplanted or discontinued at this juncture of the ongoing COVID–19 emergency. The FAA believes the conditions associated with the relief provided to date and in this decision are generally comparable to the WASB package and remain necessary to strike a balance between competing interests of incumbent carriers and those carriers seeking new or increased access at these historically-constrained airports, as well as to ensure the relief is appropriately tailored to reduce the potential to suppress flight operations for which demand exists. Discussion of Comments Regarding Administering Relief Under This Waiver The FAA received comment requesting clarification on how it will evaluate whether any individual slot or schedule approval will qualify for a waiver and whether the Winter 2019/ 2020 season would be used to establish a carrier’s historic international operational baseline. The conditional relief described in this notice is available for international operations that would have been operated in the Winter 2021/2022 season, but for COVID–19 impacts. This conditional relief is available to domestic carriers on a scale that is generally comparable to each carrier’s pre-COVID level of international service. The FAA will generally evaluate any request for relief from U.S. carriers for the Winter 2021/ 2022 scheduling season based on historical levels of operations to foreign points as demonstrated in published schedules from the Winter 2019/2020 scheduling season. Domestic carriers seeking relief for a particular operation 33 The FAA is responsible to develop plans and policy for the use of 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, 85 FR 58258 (Sep. 18, 2020); Operating Limitations at New York LaGuardia Airport, 85 FR 58255 (Sep. 18, 2020). E:\FR\FM\20OCN1.SGM 20OCN1 lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with NOTICES1 58140 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 200 / Wednesday, October 20, 2021 / Notices under the waiver will need to provide the FAA, if not readily apparent from FAA records and historic published schedule data, alternative supplemental information that predates FAA’s proposal (86 FR 52114) to demonstrate intent to use a slot or approved operating time for an international destination. The FAA will not accept evidence of intent to use a particular slot or approved operating time for an international flight during the Winter 2021/2022 season, if the information is dated after FAA’s proposal issued September 16, 2021. The FAA is persuaded by commenters that have requested the FAA modify the initial October 4, 2021, slot return deadline due to compliance issues attributable to the timing of FAA’s final waiver decision. The slot return deadline, as proposed, would have required airlines to return slots associated with flights to be operated on November 1, 2021, by October 4, 2021 (i.e., four weeks in advance). Due to the timing of this final notice, the FAA will require compliance with the 4-week advance slot return condition for operations scheduled from November 22, 2021 (instead of from October 31, 2021) through the duration of the Winter 2021/2022 season. Accordingly, carriers must begin notifying FAA of Winter returns by October 25, 2021 (instead of October 4, 2021). The FAA believes this change is reasonable because it would be impracticable for carriers to meet the proposed October 4, 2021, return deadline given the timing of the FAA’s final waiver policy. The FAA also received a comment requesting carriers be given flexibility to ‘‘utilize one-half of a historic international slot pair and waive the other half to maximize utilization of planned operations.’’ The FAA administers slots and schedule approvals on an individualized basis, not as slot pairs. Indeed, some slot allocations or schedule approvals are paired with operations outside of slotcontrolled or schedule-facilitated hours. Due to slots not being administered in pairs the flexibility requested is already built into the underlying rules and waiver policy. Carriers therefore will have flexibility to and are encouraged to, operate any individual slot or schedule approval that does not necessitate this relief. In addition, the FAA received a comment requesting that the FAA ‘‘not grant slot historic status/historic precedence at Level 3 airports or priority consideration at Level 2 airports to ad hoc movements allocated during the Winter 2020 season unless the airport is below the declared capacity VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:55 Oct 19, 2021 Jkt 256001 limit at the time of the ad hoc movement.’’ The FAA notes that the conditions of this waiver provide that slots operated as approved on a nonhistoric basis in Winter 2021/2022 will be given priority over new demands for the same timings in the next equivalent season (Winter 2022/2023) for use on a non-historic basis, subject to capacity availability and consistent with established rules and policies in effect in the United States (emphasis added). However, the FAA further notes that this stated priority was initially added in FAA’s Summer 2021 Policy Statement.34 The FAA has flexibility under usual rules and procedures to apply the priority even in the absence of this. Further, FAA received comment requesting that carriers that have ‘‘clearly and publicly communicated the indefinite discontinuation of operations at capacity constrained airports should not be waiver eligible without clear documentation to both FAA and the airport operator of plans to recommence operations within a reasonable timeframe’’ should be returned to the FAA for re-allocation. The FAA noted that the third condition for slotcontrolled airports expressly states ‘‘slots granted historic precedence for subsequent seasons based on this relief are not eligible for transfer if the slot holder ceases all operations at the airport.’’ However, aside from the conditions provided in this relief, other established local rules in the United States continue to apply. Furthermore, the FAA received comment requesting ‘‘greater visibility and information relative to returned capacity and reallocation under the usage waivers.’’ The FAA to date has accommodated all ad hoc requests for operations (passenger and cargo) under the current waiver based on continued depressed demand and associated returns before the four-week deadline. Generally, after the first weeks the Summer 2021 waiver was in effect, the majority of slot and schedule returns have been made in at least one-month increments. By June 2021, sufficient returns had been made to allow the FAA to accommodate most requests for ad hoc flights through the end of the season on October 30, 2021. Most of the ad hoc increases have been by domestic and foreign air carriers for cargo operations at JFK and by domestic carriers for passenger operations at EWR. In addition, cargo and passenger carriers at 34 FAA Policy Statement: Limited, Conditional Extension of COVID–19-Related Relief for the Summer 2021 Scheduling Season (Docket No. FAA–2020–0862–0302). PO 00000 Frm 00087 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 several airports requested and were approved for ad hoc retiming of some flights previously approved for different times. Some of those carriers indicated these changes are intended to reflect temporary adjustment to their network operations related to COVID–19 impacts. Other requests for ad hoc slots or flight approval have been primarily requests for restoration of short-term flights that were previously returned and additional flights often identified as repatriation or special cargo flights. Despite significant returns, the FAA has not received any requests for ad hoc flights at DCA and only a small number of requests for ad hoc flights at LGA beyond limited inquiries from carriers seeking permanent slot allocations. Finally, the FAA received comments from some individuals and anonymous commenters suggesting that relief should be continued for domestic operations. The FAA notes that no U.S. carrier or industry advocate has petitioned the FAA for such continued relief for domestic operations. Indeed, comments from industry reflect a consensus view that demand in the United States for domestic travel is rebounding and further relief would be detrimental to recovery. Discussion of Additional Issues Raised in Comments The FAA received individualized responses from some carriers to the questions posed to carriers in FAA’s proposal. This information will be useful in FAA’s administration of this waiver and the additional information provided is consistent with the policy in this final notice. To the extent that some commenters question FAA’s authority to manage slots and facilitate schedules or seek to supersede this proceeding entirely by encouraging the federal government to establish broader aviation industry recovery policies and/ or change the regulatory policy landscape for managing slots and schedule facilitation in the United States, such comments are deemed to be outside the scope of this proceeding. Decision The FAA has determined to extend through March 26, 2022, the COVID–19related limited, conditional waiver of the minimum slot usage requirement at JFK, LGA, and DCA that the FAA has already made available through October 30, 2021, for international operations only. Similarly, the FAA has determined to extend through March 26, 2022, its COVID–19-related limited, conditional policy for prioritizing flights canceled at designated IATA Level 2 airports in the United States (EWR, E:\FR\FM\20OCN1.SGM 20OCN1 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 200 / Wednesday, October 20, 2021 / Notices lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with NOTICES1 LAX, ORD, and SFO), for purposes of establishing a carrier’s operational baseline in the next corresponding season, for international operations only. This relief is limited to slots and approved operating times used by any carrier for international operations only, through March 26, 2022, and will be subject to the same terms and conditions, with minor modifications, as previously explained herein. As of the date of issuance of this notice, U.S. domestic air travel demand and vaccination rates have reached a level that the FAA believes no longer necessarily justifies COVID–19-related slot usage relief domestically. However, COVID–19 continues to present a highly unusual and unpredictable condition for international operations that is beyond the control of carriers. Indeed, foreign carriers in many parts of the world are prevented from operating to the United States due to governmental restrictions resulting from COVID–19. The continuing impacts of COVID–19 on global aviation are dramatic and extraordinary, with an unprecedented decrease in passenger demand for international air travel globally. Therefore, the FAA believes an extension of conditional relief for international operations only, through March 26, 2022, is reasonable due to fluctuating travel restrictions and ongoing economic and health impacts of COVID–19 internationally. The available relief is expected to provide carriers with flexibility during this unprecedented situation and to support the long-term viability of international operations at slot-controlled and IATA Level 2 airports in the United States.35 Continuing relief for this additional period is reasonable to mitigate the impacts on passenger demand for international air travel resulting from the spread of COVID–19 worldwide. While the FAA is providing continued, conditional, relief through the Winter 2021/2022 season for international operations, carriers should not assume that further relief will be forthcoming beyond the end of the Winter 2021/2022 scheduling season. The FAA will review the facts and circumstances at the time of any future waiver requests; however, the FAA will 35 The FAA is responsible to develop plans and policy for the use of 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, 85 FR 58258 (Sep. 18, 2020); Operating Limitations at New York LaGuardia Airport, 85 FR 58255 (Sep. 18, 2020). VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:55 Oct 19, 2021 Jkt 256001 also continue to consider the importance of providing access to the Nation’s congested airports where there is capacity available. Slots are a scarce resource. Slot usage waivers accordingly are reserved for extraordinary circumstances. Even during an extraordinary period such as the COVID–19 pandemic, carriers should utilize their slots and operating authorizations efficiently, in accordance with established rules and policy, or relinquish those slots and authorizations to the FAA so that other carriers willing and able to make use of them can do so. The FAA cautions all carriers against altering plans for usage at slot-controlled and Level 2 airports in reliance upon a presumption that additional relief will be forthcoming, which is a decision on which the FAA has not made at this time. The presumption that carriers should apply in preparing for operations in future scheduling seasons is compliance with standard slot management and schedule facilitation processes. The FAA reiterates its expectation that foreign slot coordinators will provide reciprocal relief to U.S. carriers. 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. The FAA acknowledges that some foreign jurisdictions may opt to adopt more strict provisions in response to this policy than they had otherwise planned. However, as previously explained, the FAA believes the conditions associated with the relief provided in this policy are necessary to strike a balance between competing interests of incumbent carriers and those carriers seeking new or increased access at these historically-constrained airports, as well as to ensure the relief is appropriately tailored to reduce the potential for a long-term waiver to suppress flight operations for which demand exists. 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 The FAA emphasizes that it strongly encourages carriers to return slots and approved schedules voluntarily as soon as possible and for as long a period as possible during the Winter 2021/2022 season, so that other airlines seeking operations on an ad hoc basis may do so with increased certainty. The rolling four-week return deadline is only a minimum requirement, and FAA PO 00000 Frm 00088 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 58141 anticipates that carriers may often be able to provide notice of cancellations significantly further in advance than four weeks. In both the Level 2 and slotcontrolled environments, the FAA seeks the assistance of all carriers to continue to work with the FAA to ensure the national airspace system capacity is not underutilized during the COVID–19 pandemic. Carriers should advise the FAA Slot Administration Office of COVID–19related cancellations and return the slots to the FAA by email to 7-awaslotadmin@faa.gov to obtain relief. The information provided should include the dates for which relief is requested, the flight number, origin/destination airport, scheduled time of operation, the slot identification number, as applicable, and supporting information demonstrating that flight cancellations directly relate to the COVID–19 pandemic. Carriers providing insufficient information to clearly identify slots that will not be operated at DCA, JFK, or LGA will not be granted relief from the applicable minimum usage requirements. Carriers providing insufficient information to identify clearly changes or cancellations from previously approved schedules at EWR, LAX, ORD, or SFO will not be provided priority for future seasons. Issued in Washington, DC, on October 18, 2021. Lorelei Dinges Peter, Assistant Chief Counsel for Regulations. Virginia T. Boyle, Vice President, System Operations Services. [FR Doc. 2021–22988 Filed 10–18–21; 4:15 pm] BILLING CODE 4910–13–P DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION National Highway Traffic Safety Administration [Docket No. DOT–NHTSA–2021–0039] Agency Information Collection Activities; Submission to the Office of Management and Budget for Review and Approval; State Data Transfer for Vehicle Crash Information National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Department of Transportation (DOT). ACTION: Notice and request for approval of an extension of a currently approved information collection. AGENCY: In compliance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (PRA), this notice announces that the Information Collection Request (ICR) summarized below will be submitted to SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\20OCN1.SGM 20OCN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 86, Number 200 (Wednesday, October 20, 2021)]
[Notices]
[Pages 58134-58141]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2021-22988]


=======================================================================
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

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 2021/2022 
Scheduling Season

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

ACTION: Extension of limited, conditional waiver of the minimum slot 
usage requirement for international operations only.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: The FAA has determined to extend through March 26, 2022, the 
Coronavirus (COVID-19)-related limited, conditional 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 30, 2021, for international operations only. Similarly, the FAA 
has determined to extend through March 26, 2022, its COVID-19-related 
limited, conditional 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 next corresponding season, for 
international operations only. 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 relief is limited 
to slots and approved operating times used by any carrier for 
international operations only, through March 26, 2022, and will be 
subject to the same terms and conditions, with minor modifications, 
that the FAA has already applied to the relief that remains available 
through October 30, 2021.

DATES: The relief announced in this notice is available for the Winter 
2021/2022 scheduling season, which runs from October 31, 2021, through 
March 26, 2022. Compliance with the rolling four-week return condition 
on the relief announced in this notice is required beginning on October 
25, 2021. Compliance with all other conditions remains in effect 
without change from prior seasons.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Al Meilus, Manager, Slot 
Administration, AJR-G, Federal Aviation Administration, 800 
Independence Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20591; telephone (202) 267-2822; 
email [email protected].

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    On March 16, 2020, the FAA granted a limited waiver of the minimum 
slot usage requirements \1\ to carriers operating at all slot-
controlled airports in the United States (DCA, JFK, and LGA) \2\ and 
related relief to carriers operating at designated IATA Level 2 
airports in the United States (EWR, LAX, ORD, SFO) due to the 
extraordinary impacts on the demand for air travel resulting from the 
COVID-19 pandemic.\3\ Since the initial slot usage waiver and related 
relief was

[[Page 58135]]

provided, the FAA has taken action to extend the relief provided on 
three occasions subject to certain substantive changes, including the 
addition of conditions, as the COVID-19 situation continued to 
evolve.\4\ The most recent limited, conditional extension of COVID-19-
related relief was issued by the FAA on January 13, 2021, and is due to 
expire on October 31, 2021.\5\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \1\ The FAA has authority for developing ``plans and policy for 
the use of the navigable airspace'' and for assigning ``by 
regulation or order the use of the airspace necessary to ensure the 
safety of aircraft and the efficient use of airspace.'' 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 JFK and LGA. See Operating Limitations at John F. Kennedy 
International Airport, 85 FR 58258 (Sep. 18, 2020); Operating 
Limitations at New York LaGuardia Airport, 85 FR 58255 (Sep. 18, 
2020).
    \2\ Although DCA and LGA are not designated as IATA Level 3 
slot-controlled airports given that these airports primarily serve 
domestic destinations, the FAA limits operations at these airports 
via rules at DCA and an Order at LGA that are equivalent to IATA 
Level 3. See FN 1. The FAA reiterates that the relief provided in 
the March 16, 2020, notice (85 FR 15018), the April 17, 2020, notice 
(85 FR 21500), the October 7, 2020, notice (85 FR 63335), and this 
policy statement, extends to all allocated slots, including slots 
allocated by exemption.
    \3\ Notice of Limited Waiver of the Slot Usage Requirement, 85 
FR 15018 (Mar. 16, 2020).
    \4\ Notice of Extension of Limited Waiver of the Minimum Slot 
Usage Requirement, 85 FR 21500 (Apr. 17, 2020); Extension of Limited 
Waiver of the Minimum Slot Usage Requirement, 85 FR 63335 (Oct. 7, 
2020); and FAA Policy Statement: Limited, Conditional Extension of 
COVID-19 Related Relief for the Summer 2021 Scheduling Season 
(Docket No. FAA-2020-0862-0302).
    \5\ FAA Policy Statement: Limited, Conditional Extension of 
COVID-19 Related Relief for the Summer 2021 Scheduling Season 
(Docket No. FAA-2020-0862-0302).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The FAA issued a notice on September 16, 2021, inviting comment on 
its proposal to extend through March 26, 2022, the COVID-19-related 
limited, conditional waiver of the minimum slot usage requirement at 
United States (U.S.) slot controlled and IATA Level 2 airports that the 
FAA has already made available through October 30, 2021, for 
international operations only.\6\ In its proposal the FAA explained it 
would generally evaluate any request for relief from U.S. carriers for 
the Winter 2021/2022 scheduling season based on historical levels of 
operations to foreign points as demonstrated in published schedules and 
that domestic carriers seeking relief for a particular operation under 
the waiver will need to provide the FAA, if not readily apparent from 
FAA records and historic published schedule data, alternative 
supplemental information that predates FAA's proposal to demonstrate 
intent to use a slot or approved operating time for an international 
destination. The notice explained that international operations 
eligible for a waiver at U.S. slot-controlled and IATA Level 2 airports 
under FAA's proposal would be subject to all of the same conditions and 
policies already in effect, with minor modifications.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \6\ Notice of proposed extension of a limited, conditional 
waiver of the minimum slot usage requirement for all international 
operations, 86 FR 52114 (Sep. 20, 2021).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In addition, the FAA invited comment and supporting information to 
demonstrate why the FAA should or should not finalize its proposed 
decision. In particular, U.S. carriers were invited to provide 
individualized responses to several questions concerning FAA's proposal 
and the continuing need for relief due to COVID-19.

Current COVID-19 Situation

    Since FAA's January 13, 2021, policy statement granting a limited, 
conditional extension of COVID-19-related relief at slot-controlled 
airports and IATA Level 2 airports in the United States, COVID-19 has 
continued to cause disruption globally and the timeline for recovery 
from this global pandemic remains uncertain. The World Health 
Organization (WHO) reports COVID-19 cases in more than 200 countries, 
areas, and territories worldwide.\7\ For the week ending October 10, 
2021, the WHO reported 2.8 million new COVID-19 cases and just over 
46,000 new deaths, bringing the cumulative total to more than 237 
million reported COVID-19 cases and more than 4.8 million deaths 
globally since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.\8\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \7\ https://covid19.who.int/table.
    \8\ COVID-19 weekly epidemiological update, October 13, 2021, 
available at: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/situation-reports. See also https://covid19.who.int/for WHO COVID-19 Dashboard with the most current 
number of cases reported.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The WHO reports that it is monitoring multiple variants globally; 
currently the WHO has classified four different variants as ``variants 
of concern'' and two different variants as ``variants of interest.'' 
\9\ The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is monitoring all variants of 
COVID-19 in the United States.\10\ The CDC has listed the Delta variant 
as a variant of concern and warns that it spreads more easily and 
quickly and may cause more severe cases than the other variants.\11\ 
However, the CDC reports that so far, studies suggest that the current 
Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved or authorized vaccines do 
work against the circulating variants.\12\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \9\ https://www.who.int/en/activities/tracking-SARS-CoV-2-variants/.
    \10\ Center for Disease Control (CDC), About Variants of the 
Virus that Causes COVID-19, available at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/variants/variant.html.
    \11\ Id.
    \12\ Id. See also https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/effectiveness/work.html.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    On January 21, 2021, President Biden announced the National 
Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness, a 
national strategy to beat the COVID-19 pandemic.\13\ The strategy is a 
comprehensive plan that starts with restoring public trust and mounting 
an aggressive, safe, and effective vaccination campaign while 
continuing with the steps that stop the spread like expanded masking, 
testing, and social distancing. On September 9, 2021, President Biden 
announced a six-pronged approach to expand vaccinations, provide 
booster shots, keep schools safely open, increase testing and masking, 
protect the economic recovery, and improve care for those with COVID-
19.\14\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \13\ https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/National-Strategy-for-the-COVID-19-Response-and-Pandemic-Preparedness.pdf.
    \14\ President Biden's COVID-19 Plan [bond] The White House.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Currently three COVID-19 vaccines have been authorized for 
emergency use or approved by the FDA.\15\ As of October 17, 2021, 57 
percent of Americans are fully vaccinated and 65.9 percent of Americans 
have received at least one dose.\16\ Increased rates of vaccination in 
the U.S., along with other measures to stop the spread have resulted in 
an overall decline of the U.S. COVID-19 infection rate since the 
previous COVID-19 waiver proceeding. However, cases increased again 
following the U.S. reaching its lowest rates of infection experienced 
since the week of March 16, 2020 (79,358 confirmed new cases for the 
week of June 14, 2021, reflected the lowest rate of infection since the 
week of March, 16, 2020).\17\ When the FAA extended COVID-19-related 
relief on January 13, 2021, the number of confirmed new cases of COVID-
19 in the U.S. for the week of January 11, 2021, based on WHO data, was 
1,580,016.\18\ For the week of October 3, 2021, which is the most 
recent week for which data is available, the WHO reports 653,837 
confirmed new cases in the United States.\19\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \15\ https://www.fda.gov/emergency-preparedness-and-response/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19/covid-19-vaccines.
    \16\ CDC, COVID-19 Vaccinations in the United States, updated 
October 17, 2021, available at: https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#vaccinations.
    \17\ https://covid19.who.int/region/amro/country/us.
    \18\ FAA Policy Statement: Limited, Conditional Extension of 
COVID-19 Related Relief for the Summer 2021 Scheduling Season. 
(Docket No. FAA-2020-0862-0302). See also https://covid19.who.int/region/amro/country/us.
    \19\ COVID-19 weekly epidemiological update, October 13, 2021, 
available at: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/situation-reports See also https://covid19.who.int/region/amro/country/us.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The U.S. is attempting to distribute vaccines globally to help 
vaccination numbers improve.\20\ On August 18, 2021, President Biden 
announced that in the months of June and July the United States had 
donated 100 million doses and that in the coming months of fall and 
early winter another 100 million boosters and 200 million

[[Page 58136]]

additional doses will be donated to other countries.\21\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \20\ https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/06/03/statement-by-president-joe-biden-on-global-vaccine-distribution/.
    \21\ https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2021/08/18/remarks-by-president-biden-on-fighting-the-covid-19-pandemic-2/.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The United States is moving to a system of vaccine verification to 
facilitate international travel to/from the United States. There remain 
a number of travel advisories and foreign government restrictions that 
are affecting the demand and operational flexibility of U.S. and 
foreign carriers that serve Level 2 and Level 3 airports from some 
international destinations.

Standard Applicable to This Waiver Proceeding

    The FAA reiterates the standards applicable to petitions for 
waivers of the minimum slot usage requirements in effect at DCA, JFK, 
and LGA, as discussed in FAA's initial decision granting relief due to 
COVID-19 impacts.\22\ At JFK and LGA, each slot must be used at least 
80 percent of the time.\23\ Slots not meeting the minimum usage 
requirements will be withdrawn. The FAA may waive the 80 percent usage 
requirement in the event of a highly unusual and unpredictable 
condition that is beyond the control of the slot-holding air carrier 
and which affects carrier operations for a period of five consecutive 
days or more.\24\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \22\ See 85 FR 15018 (Mar. 16, 2020).
    \23\ Operating Limitations at John F. Kennedy International 
Airport, 85 FR 58258 (Sep. 18, 2020); Operating Limitations at New 
York LaGuardia Airport, 85 FR 47065 at 58255 (Sep. 18, 2020).
    \24\ At JFK, historical rights to operating authorizations and 
withdrawal of those rights due to insufficient usage will be 
determined on a seasonal basis and in accordance with the schedule 
approved by the FAA prior to the commencement of the applicable 
season. See JFK Order, 85 FR at 58260. At LGA, any operating 
authorization not used at least 80 percent of the time over a two-
month period will be withdrawn by the FAA. See LGA Order, 85 FR at 
58257.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    At DCA, any slot not used at least 80 percent of the time over a 
two-month period also will be recalled by the FAA.\25\ The FAA may 
waive this minimum usage requirement in the event of a highly unusual 
and unpredictable condition that is beyond the control of the slot-
holding carrier and which exists for a period of nine or more days.\26\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \25\ See 14 CFR 93.227(a).
    \26\ See 14 CFR 93.227(j).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    When making decisions concerning historical rights to allocated 
slots, including whether to grant a waiver of the usage requirement, 
the FAA seeks to ensure the efficient use of valuable aviation 
infrastructure while maximizing the benefits to airport users and the 
traveling public. This minimum usage requirement is expected to 
accommodate routine cancelations under all but the most unusual 
circumstances. Carriers proceed at risk if, at any time prior to a 
final decision, they make decisions in anticipation of the FAA granting 
a slot usage waiver.

Summary of Comments and Information Submitted

    The FAA received comments on the proposal from 32 stakeholders and 
other persons including IATA, Airlines for America (A4A), the Cargo 
Airline Association (CAA), Airports Council International-North America 
(ACI-NA), Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ), 
Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), Exhaustless Inc. 
(Exhaustless), 4 U.S. carriers, 12 foreign carriers, 7 individuals, and 
2 anonymous commenters.\27\ A majority of commenters including IATA, 
A4A, and all commenting U.S. and foreign carriers except for CAA, 
generally support FAA's proposal though some commenting carriers have 
requested certain modifications. In addition, the FAA received one 
clarifying question from PaxEx.Aero.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \27\ The FAA notes that two carriers submitted comments marked 
as containing proprietary information (PROPIN). The information 
contained within these comments was consistent with information 
submitted by other airline industry commenters. The FAA will 
maintain the confidentiality of this information to the extent 
permitted by law.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Commenters Who Support FAA's Proposal

    MWAA, EVA Air, Etihad Airways, Lot Polish Airlines, China Airlines, 
Singapore Airlines, Aer Lingus, Air New Zealand, British Airways, and 
Emirates commented supporting FAA's proposal. MWAA supports ``the FAA's 
decision to limit the continuation of the conditional waiver to 
international operations'' and that the ``restoration of the 80 percent 
slot utilization requirement for domestic operations recognizes that 
domestic air travel is rebounding.'' The foreign carriers that 
commented in support of FAA's proposal generally stated that 
international demand for air travel has not yet recovered from COVID-
19-related impacts and that FAA's proposal provides the airline 
community needed flexibility and supports the long-term viability of 
airlines operations and networks.

Commenters Who Support FAA's Proposal With Requested Modifications

    Avianca Airlines, Delta Air Lines (Delta), A4A, IATA, ACI-NA, 
Iberia Airlines, Tap Air Portugal, PANYNJ, Spirit Airlines (Spirit), 
United Airlines (United), Southwest Airlines (Southwest), and one 
individual support FAA's proposal but made additional requests or 
comments. IATA states that it agrees with the FAA that ``the industry 
has not seen any meaningful recovery from the circumstances it faced 
when the FAA last provided a waiver for the Summer 2021 season.'' IATA 
believes that this ``combined with the late notice of this relief so 
close to season start, warrants the full, conditional waiver to be 
extended for the Winter 2021-22 season.'' However, IATA states that it 
``believes that the WASB offers the most sustainable solution.'' \28\ 
In addition IATA asks the FAA to reconsider the proposed return date of 
October 4, 2021, and to instead set the return date ``two weeks after 
the publication of the final order in the Federal Register.''
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \28\ A summary of the Worldwide Airport Slot Board (WASB) 
proposal for Winter 2021/2022 was included in an annex to IATA's 
June 4, 2021 petition, which has been placed in the docket for this 
proceeding.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    A4A supports FAA's proposal stating that it provides ``operational 
certainty'', ``simplicity'', and ``fairness and equity.'' A4A submitted 
additional requests including that FAA ``maintain a reciprocity 
requirement'', ``incorporate flexibility into slot return rules to 
allow the initial slot return deadline to be 2 weeks from the Final FR 
publication'', ``clarify that the historic baseline is the Winter 2019 
season'', and ``support international slot usage''. A4A requests the 
FAA ``permit a two-week slot return notice requirement for the first 
two weeks after a final notice is issued and thereafter revert to a 
four week slot return notice requirement'' given the timing of the 
final notice. A4A also asks the FAA to ``clarify that the Historic 
Baseline is the Winter 2019 Season.'' Specifically, A4A asks that the 
FAA to ``permit carriers to provide evidence that would demonstrate the 
W19 schedule and the historical international slot times to account for 
the many adjustments that must be made over time.'' In addition A4A 
asks that the FAA not use the Official Airline Guide data published at 
the time the final notice is issued because ``the U.S. is one of the 
last countries to finalize a W21 policy and carriers have already taken 
action to adjust some published schedules based on previous slot return 
deadlines imposed by foreign jurisdictions.'' Finally, A4A asks that 
the FAA support international slot usage by giving carriers ``the 
ability to utilize one-half of a historic international slot pair and 
waive the

[[Page 58137]]

other half to maximize utilization of planned operations.''
    Delta supports the FAA's proposal stating that ``COVID-19 continues 
to cause disruption in global air travel and the timeline for recovery 
remains fluid and unpredictable.'' Noting that ``in contrast to the 
resurgence of domestic travel we are seeing in the United States, the 
global pandemic continues to depress international air travel demand--
necessitating the extension of the existing slot waiver framework for 
international flying.'' While Delta fully supports the Department's 
proposal in principle, Delta asks ``the Department to modify the 
initial October 4, 2021 slot return deadline proposed in the notice to 
avoid compliance issues.'' Specifically, Delta asks for a two-week 
extension of the four-week advance slot return condition of the waiver. 
Finally, Delta provided responses to the individualized questions posed 
to carriers in FAA's proposal.
    United commented that it adopts and incorporates by reference the 
comments filed by A4A as well as supports and endorses IATA's comments 
supporting the full season extension of FAA's existing conditional 
waiver. United supports FAA's proposal stating that ``the proposed 
COVID-19 Relief Notice continues to recognize the importance to 
international commerce of granting reciprocal waivers and the 
significance of affording parallel relief to Level 2 and Level 3 
airports and promotes certainty, stability, and fairness across the 
industry.'' In addition, United urges the FAA ``to not grant slot 
historic status/historic precedence at Level 3 airports or priority 
consideration at Level 2 airports to ad hoc movements allocated during 
the Winter 2020 season unless the airport is below the declared 
capacity limit at the time of the ad hoc movement.'' Moreover, United 
disagrees that COVID-19 is causing structural and operational changes 
to the airline industry and asserts that ``the pandemic is not the new 
normal.'' Finally, United provided responses to the individualized 
questions posed to carriers in FAA's proposal.
    Spirit comments that it supports FAA's proposal to end the 
``limited, conditional waiver of the minimum slot usage requirement for 
domestic operations.'' Spirit notes that it does not oppose continuing 
the waiver ``for an additional season for international operations.'' 
However, Spirit states that it ``assumes the FAA will continue to 
approve operations by carriers that have been operating with otherwise 
unused international slots and authorizations during the current season 
to continue using those operating times if the holder does not 
reinstate service for the Winter 21-22 season.'' In addition, Spirit 
states that it ``supports the FAA's plan to require domestic carriers 
to establish that specific slot/authorizations were in fact used for 
international operations pre-pandemic.'' Spirit asks the FAA ``to 
remain vigilant to prevent large domestic slot holders to use loopholes 
to retain slots/authorizations using a range of anticompetitive 
tricks.''
    Southwest supports FAA's proposal stating that ``recognizing that 
numerous COVID-related circumstances continue to inhibit international 
air travel uniquely, the DOT has wisely limited its proposed waiver of 
slot usage requirements to international operations.'' In addition, 
Southwest believes that FAA's decision not to grant further COVID-
related usage waivers for domestic operations will increase competition 
which will benefit ``travelers, airports, communities, and the national 
economy.''
    ACI-NA is supportive of FAA's proposal to ``restore slot 
utilization requirements for domestic flight beginning in W21.'' ACI-NA 
points out that the FAA has stated that ``there may come a point in 
time 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'' and ACI-NA believes ``the end of W21 is that 
point in time.''
    PANYNJ supports FAA's decision to extend slot usage waivers for 
international operations only for the Winter 2021/2022 Scheduling 
Season. PANYNJ states that the decision to enforce utilization 
requirements for domestic flight ``reflects the strong recovery in 
domestic demand and will serve the public interest by ensuring valuable 
airport infrastructure is used to deliver crucial air service to our 
customers and help drive our region's economic recovery.'' PANYNJ 
requests ``greater visibility and information relative to returned 
capacity and reallocation under the usage waivers.'' In addition, 
PANYNJ asserts that ``carriers that have clearly and publicly 
communicated the indefinite discontinuation of operations at capacity 
constrained airports should not be waiver eligible without clear 
documentation to both FAA and the airport operator of plans to 
recommence operations within a reasonable timeframe'' and otherwise 
PANYNJ recommends ``the slots be returned to the pool for re-
allocation.''
    Avianca Airlines supports FAA's proposal however requests more 
flexibility in the usage threshold, such as a ``50/50'' minimum usage 
requirement, for slots newly allocated for W21. Iberia Airlines 
supports FAA's proposal and asserts that ``the recovery period has not 
yet arrived and that we are still in a period of uncertainty and 
waiting for demand.'' In addition, Iberia requests the reciprocity as a 
condition be removed. Tap Air Portugal supports FAA's proposal but 
notes that it will ``have to fight for the reciprocity in the EU, to 
have real benefits from the relief.''

Commenters Who Oppose the FAA's Proposal

    CAA, seven individuals, two anonymous commenters, and Exhaustless 
oppose FAA's proposal to continue COVID-19-related relief for 
international operations only.
    CAA opposes FAA's proposal to extend relief from minimum slot usage 
requirement for international operations. CAA submits that it is ``in 
the public interest for the FAA to require carriers that cannot use 
slots or timings in Winter 2021/2022 Season to return them to the FAA 
permanently.'' CAA states that it is ``fully aware of the daunting 
operating challenges facing both airports and airlines in an 
environment poisoned by COVID'' and that ``airlines should not be 
penalized for their temporary inability to fully utilize their slots 
and other operating rights as a result of government travel 
restrictions and drastically reduced passenger demand caused by the 
COVID pandemic.'' However, CAA believes that ``the high demand for air 
cargo and the location and time sensitive nature of the demand for e-
commerce air cargo deliveries mean that air cargo services need the 
opportunity to secure slots and authorizations at peak times with 
historic rights to close in airports in the northeast as ever before.'' 
CAA states that ``the ad hoc slots and authorizations that waivers have 
made available do not substitute for slots or approved operating times 
that have a greater likelihood of securing long-term access for 
association members.'' In addition, due to the continued national 
emergency and the roll of all-cargo industry, CAA asserts that ``the 
slots or authorizations at Level 2 airports not needed by passenger 
airlines should be available for temporary allocation to cargo airlines 
rather than being un- or underused.'' Moreover, CAA urges the FAA to 
consider ``a longer-term solution to avoid serial, last-minute renewals 
of slot use waivers in the future'' and ``begin working toward a long-
term plan on rights reallocation to account for the need for expansions 
and retiming of all-cargo services as an important component of 
competition.'' Finally,

[[Page 58138]]

CAA asks that if the FAA extends a limited waiver, that the FAA 
``clearly define the basis any U.S. carrier might use to claim a 
waiver; describe how it will evaluate whether any individual slot or 
authorization will qualify for a waiver; and permit further public 
comment on those criteria.''
    The individual and anonymous commenters believe that demand for 
domestic air travel has not recovered to a point that warrants 
discontinuing relief and that FAA's proposal will result in unnecessary 
flights that would be detrimental from an environmental perspective. 
However, one individual commenter states that they ``oppose continued 
slot usage relief'' because ``gate space is a scarce resource and the 
FAA should make every effort to utilize this space to maximize 
productivity and encourage economic recovery with airlines who believe 
they can successfully repurpose this space.'' This individual commenter 
states that they ``favor JetBlue's opinion that the DOT/FAA enable a 
case-by-case evaluation for limited exemptions based on extreme 
circumstances such as boarder [sic] closure or conditions of entry that 
represent de facto border closure.''
    Exhaustless opposes FAA's proposal as unlawful, contending the FAA 
has no authority to administer runway slots or manage schedules and 
that ``[t]he only decision before the FAA is whether to voluntarily 
continue to violate the law or to extricate itself from this regulatory 
taking and illegal subsidy to a conspiracy.''

Clarifying Question

    PaxEx.Aero sent an email to the FAA slot office on September 17, 
2021, asking the FAA to clarify how the Agency will ``determine what 
slots are international service'' and if it will be ``from 2019/2020 
scheduled levels.'' The FAA sent a response email on September 20, 
2021, that quoted the portion of FAA's proposal that addressed 
PaxEx.Aero's question. A copy of the communication has been included in 
the docket of this proceeding.

Discussion of Continued Relief for International Operations Only for 
the Winter 2021/2022 Scheduling Season

    At the present time, U.S. domestic air travel demand and U.S. 
vaccination rates have reached a level that the FAA believes no longer 
justifies COVID-19-related slot usage relief domestically. However, 
COVID-19 continues to present a highly unusual and unpredictable 
condition for international operations that is beyond the control of 
carriers. As demonstrated in comments submitted by carriers and 
industry advocates, passenger demand for international air travel 
continues to be depressed as a result of COVID-19. The continuing 
impacts of COVID-19 on global aviation are dramatic and extraordinary, 
with an unprecedented decrease in passenger demand for international 
air travel globally.
    As with the proposal, the FAA acknowledges the need for slot 
holders to have some flexibility in decision-making, in regard to 
international operations, as the severe impacts of the COVID-19 
pandemic continue globally, but note it is not the policy of the 
Department of Transportation (DOT) to use slot and Level 2 rules to 
reserve capacity for historic incumbent carriers until demand returns 
to predetermined levels. Instead, it is the policy of the DOT to 
encourage high utilization of scarce public infrastructure. Under the 
established standard, slot usage waivers are generally used to address 
short-term, unpredictable shocks to demand or capacity that are beyond 
carriers' control. After 19 months of experience, the DOT believes it 
is becoming apparent that COVID-19 is causing structural and 
operational changes to the airline industry; the industry is adapting; 
and the issuance of waivers should not hinder that adaptation. As 
previously stated, at some point in time, repeated waivers to preserve 
pre-COVID slot holdings will impede the ability of airports and 
airlines to provide services that benefit the overall national economy 
and make appropriate use of scarce public assets. Therefore, the FAA 
emphasizes that operators should not assume further relief on the basis 
of COVID-19 for international operations will be forthcoming beyond the 
end of the Winter 2021/22 scheduling season.
    Based on the comments received in this proceeding, the FAA has 
determined to make available to slot holders at DCA, JFK, and LGA a 
waiver from the minimum slot usage requirements, for international 
operations only, due to continuing COVID-19 impacts through March 26, 
2021, subject to the following conditions:
    (1) All slots not intended to be operated must be returned at least 
four weeks prior to the date of the FAA-approved operation to allow 
other carriers an opportunity to operate these slots on an ad hoc basis 
without historic precedence. As explained further below, compliance 
with this condition is required for operations scheduled from November 
22, 2021, through the duration of this relief; therefore, carriers must 
begin notifying the FAA of Winter returns by October 25, 2021. Slots 
operated as approved on a non-historic basis in Winter 2021/2022 will 
be given priority over new demands for the same timings in the next 
equivalent season (Winter 2022/2023) for use on a non-historic basis, 
subject to capacity availability and consistent with established rules 
and policies in effect in the United States.29 30 Foreign 
carriers seeking priority under this provision will be required to 
represent that their home jurisdiction will provide reciprocal priority 
to U.S. carrier requests of this nature.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \29\ Consistent with the FAA's final policy statement issued 
January 13, 2021, this priority applies to slot or schedule requests 
for Winter 2022/2023, which are comparable in timing, frequency, and 
duration to the non-historic ad hoc approvals made by the FAA for 
Winter 2021/2022. This priority does not affect the historic 
precedence or priority of slot holders and carriers with schedule 
approvals, respectively, which meet the conditions of the waiver 
during Winter 2021/2022 and seek to resume operating in Winter 2022/
2023. The FAA may consider this priority in the event that slots 
with historic precedence become available for permanent allocation 
by the FAA.
    \30\ Although the FAA is extending the four-week rolling return 
policy consistent with the Summer 2021 waiver, any carrier returning 
full-season slots or schedule approvals at an airport outside the 
United States and associated with a route to the United States will 
generally be expected to similarly return the complementary full-
season U.S. slot or schedule approval to the FAA for re-allocation 
on a non-historic or ad hoc basis.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    (2) The waiver does not apply to slots newly allocated for initial 
use during the Winter 2021/2022 season. New allocations meeting minimum 
usage requirements remain eligible for historic precedence. The waiver 
does not apply to historic in-kind slots within any 30-minute or 60-
minute time period, as applicable, in which a carrier seeks and obtains 
a similar new allocation (i.e., arrival or departure, air carrier or 
commuter, if applicable); and,
    (3) The waiver does not apply to slots newly transferred on an 
uneven basis (i.e., via one-way slot transaction/lease) since October 
15, 2020, for the duration of the transfer.\31\ Slots transferred prior 
to this date may benefit from the waiver if all other conditions are 
met. Slots granted historic precedence for subsequent seasons based on 
this relief are not eligible for transfer if the slot holder ceases all 
operations at the airport.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \31\ The FAA has determined not to revise this condition to 
include a buffer period for new transfers to be completed and still 
benefit from this waiver. Therefore, this policy will remain in 
effect continuously from the initial effective date of October 16, 
2020.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In addition, an exception may be granted to these conditions based 
on any government restriction that prevents or severely restricts 
international travel to specific airports, destinations (including 
intermediate points) or

[[Page 58139]]

countries for which the slot was held. This exception applies under 
extraordinary circumstances only in which a carrier is able to 
demonstrate that the ability to operate a particular flight or comply 
with the conditions of the proposed waiver is prevented or severely 
restricted due to an unpredictable official governmental action related 
to COVID-19. This exception includes minor modifications compared to 
the exception currently in effect for the Summer 2021 season.\32\ The 
FAA seeks to provide greater flexibility in allowing exceptions under 
certain circumstances based on issues that have arisen in the course of 
implementing the relief currently available. Official government 
actions that may qualify for this exception, include--
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \32\ See FAA Policy Statement: Limited, Conditional Extension of 
COVID-19 Related Relief for the Summer 2021 Scheduling Season 
(Docket No. FAA-2020-0862-0302).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

     Government travel restrictions based on nationality, 
closed borders, government advisories related to COVID-19 that warn 
against all but essential travel, or complete bans on flights from/to 
certain countries or geographic areas.
     Government restrictions related to COVID-19 on the maximum 
number of arriving or departing flights and/or the number of passengers 
on a specific flight or through a specific airport.
     Government restrictions on movement or quarantine/
isolation measures within the country or region where the airport or 
destination (including intermediate points) is located.
     Government-imposed closure of businesses essential to 
support aviation activities (e.g., closure of hotels, ground handling 
suppliers, etc.).
     Governmental restrictions on airline crew, including 
unreasonable entry requirements or unreasonable testing and/or 
quarantine measures.
    This exception is being administered by the FAA in coordination 
with the Office of the Secretary of Transportation (OST). The 
extraordinary circumstances exception in this slot usage relief is 
limited to the scope of the relief otherwise provided by this waiver; 
U.S. carriers should not expect to rely on the extraordinary 
circumstances exception for relief for domestic operations.
    Moreover, the FAA has determined to extend through Match 26, 2021, 
its COVID-19-related policy for prioritizing flights canceled at 
designated IATA Level 2 airports in the United States (EWR, LAX, ORD 
and SFO), for purposes of establishing a carrier's operational baseline 
in the next corresponding season, subject to the following conditions:
    (1) All schedules as initially submitted by carriers and approved 
by the FAA and not intended to be operated must be returned at least 
four weeks prior to the date of the FAA-approved operation to allow 
other carriers an opportunity to operate these times on an ad hoc basis 
without historic precedence. Compliance with this condition is required 
for operations scheduled from November 22, 2021, through the duration 
of this relief; therefore, carriers must begin notifying the FAA of 
Winter returns by October 25, 2021. Schedules operated as approved on 
an ad hoc basis in Winter 2021/2022 will be given priority over new 
demands for the same timings in the next equivalent season (Winter 
2022/2023) for use on an ad hoc basis, subject to capacity availability 
and consistent with established rules and policies in effect in the 
United States. Foreign carriers seeking priority under this provision 
are required to represent that their home jurisdiction will provide 
reciprocal priority to U.S. carrier requests of this nature; and,
    (2) The priority for FAA schedules approved for Winter 2021/2022 
does not apply to net-newly approved operations for initial use during 
the Winter 2021/2022 season. New approved times will remain eligible 
for priority consideration in Winter 2022/2023 if actually operated in 
Winter 2021/2022 according to established processes.
    Consistent with the final decision for slot-controlled airports, 
limited exceptions may be granted from either or both of these 
conditions at Level 2 airports under extraordinary circumstances due to 
any government restriction that prevents or severely restricts travel 
to specific airports, destinations (including intermediate points), or 
countries for which the slot was held, as discussed previously with 
respect to slot-controlled airports. If the exception is determined not 
to apply, carriers will be expected to meet the conditions for relief 
or operate consistent with standard expectations for the Level 2 
environment.
    The FAA believes a conditional extension of relief for 
international operations only, through March 26, 2022, is reasonable 
due to fluctuating travel restrictions and ongoing economic and health 
impacts of COVID-19 internationally. The proposed relief is expected to 
provide carriers with flexibility during this unprecedented situation 
and to support the long-term viability of international operations at 
slot-controlled and IATA Level 2 airports in the United States.\33\ 
Continuing relief for this additional period is reasonable to mitigate 
the impacts on passenger demand for international air travel resulting 
from the spread of COVID-19 worldwide.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \33\ The FAA is responsible to develop plans and policy for the 
use of 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, 85 
FR 58258 (Sep. 18, 2020); Operating Limitations at New York 
LaGuardia Airport, 85 FR 58255 (Sep. 18, 2020).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The current waiver policy was developed based on a balancing of 
various conflicting stakeholder interests to the extent permissible and 
within the bounds of the current slot rules and schedule policies in 
effect in the United States. None of the comments supporting 
alternative proposals have persuaded the FAA that this policy should be 
supplanted or discontinued at this juncture of the ongoing COVID-19 
emergency. The FAA believes the conditions associated with the relief 
provided to date and in this decision are generally comparable to the 
WASB package and remain necessary to strike a balance between competing 
interests of incumbent carriers and those carriers seeking new or 
increased access at these historically-constrained airports, as well as 
to ensure the relief is appropriately tailored to reduce the potential 
to suppress flight operations for which demand exists.

Discussion of Comments Regarding Administering Relief Under This Waiver

    The FAA received comment requesting clarification on how it will 
evaluate whether any individual slot or schedule approval will qualify 
for a waiver and whether the Winter 2019/2020 season would be used to 
establish a carrier's historic international operational baseline. The 
conditional relief described in this notice is available for 
international operations that would have been operated in the Winter 
2021/2022 season, but for COVID-19 impacts. This conditional relief is 
available to domestic carriers on a scale that is generally comparable 
to each carrier's pre-COVID level of international service. The FAA 
will generally evaluate any request for relief from U.S. carriers for 
the Winter 2021/2022 scheduling season based on historical levels of 
operations to foreign points as demonstrated in published schedules 
from the Winter 2019/2020 scheduling season. Domestic carriers seeking 
relief for a particular operation

[[Page 58140]]

under the waiver will need to provide the FAA, if not readily apparent 
from FAA records and historic published schedule data, alternative 
supplemental information that predates FAA's proposal (86 FR 52114) to 
demonstrate intent to use a slot or approved operating time for an 
international destination. The FAA will not accept evidence of intent 
to use a particular slot or approved operating time for an 
international flight during the Winter 2021/2022 season, if the 
information is dated after FAA's proposal issued September 16, 2021.
    The FAA is persuaded by commenters that have requested the FAA 
modify the initial October 4, 2021, slot return deadline due to 
compliance issues attributable to the timing of FAA's final waiver 
decision. The slot return deadline, as proposed, would have required 
airlines to return slots associated with flights to be operated on 
November 1, 2021, by October 4, 2021 (i.e., four weeks in advance). Due 
to the timing of this final notice, the FAA will require compliance 
with the 4-week advance slot return condition for operations scheduled 
from November 22, 2021 (instead of from October 31, 2021) through the 
duration of the Winter 2021/2022 season. Accordingly, carriers must 
begin notifying FAA of Winter returns by October 25, 2021 (instead of 
October 4, 2021). The FAA believes this change is reasonable because it 
would be impracticable for carriers to meet the proposed October 4, 
2021, return deadline given the timing of the FAA's final waiver 
policy.
    The FAA also received a comment requesting carriers be given 
flexibility to ``utilize one-half of a historic international slot pair 
and waive the other half to maximize utilization of planned 
operations.'' The FAA administers slots and schedule approvals on an 
individualized basis, not as slot pairs. Indeed, some slot allocations 
or schedule approvals are paired with operations outside of slot-
controlled or schedule-facilitated hours. Due to slots not being 
administered in pairs the flexibility requested is already built into 
the underlying rules and waiver policy. Carriers therefore will have 
flexibility to and are encouraged to, operate any individual slot or 
schedule approval that does not necessitate this relief.
    In addition, the FAA received a comment requesting that the FAA 
``not grant slot historic status/historic precedence at Level 3 
airports or priority consideration at Level 2 airports to ad hoc 
movements allocated during the Winter 2020 season unless the airport is 
below the declared capacity limit at the time of the ad hoc movement.'' 
The FAA notes that the conditions of this waiver provide that slots 
operated as approved on a non-historic basis in Winter 2021/2022 will 
be given priority over new demands for the same timings in the next 
equivalent season (Winter 2022/2023) for use on a non-historic basis, 
subject to capacity availability and consistent with established rules 
and policies in effect in the United States (emphasis added). However, 
the FAA further notes that this stated priority was initially added in 
FAA's Summer 2021 Policy Statement.\34\ The FAA has flexibility under 
usual rules and procedures to apply the priority even in the absence of 
this.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \34\ FAA Policy Statement: Limited, Conditional Extension of 
COVID-19-Related Relief for the Summer 2021 Scheduling Season 
(Docket No. FAA-2020-0862-0302).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Further, FAA received comment requesting that carriers that have 
``clearly and publicly communicated the indefinite discontinuation of 
operations at capacity constrained airports should not be waiver 
eligible without clear documentation to both FAA and the airport 
operator of plans to recommence operations within a reasonable 
timeframe'' should be returned to the FAA for re-allocation. The FAA 
noted that the third condition for slot-controlled airports expressly 
states ``slots granted historic precedence for subsequent seasons based 
on this relief are not eligible for transfer if the slot holder ceases 
all operations at the airport.'' However, aside from the conditions 
provided in this relief, other established local rules in the United 
States continue to apply.
    Furthermore, the FAA received comment requesting ``greater 
visibility and information relative to returned capacity and 
reallocation under the usage waivers.'' The FAA to date has 
accommodated all ad hoc requests for operations (passenger and cargo) 
under the current waiver based on continued depressed demand and 
associated returns before the four-week deadline. Generally, after the 
first weeks the Summer 2021 waiver was in effect, the majority of slot 
and schedule returns have been made in at least one-month increments. 
By June 2021, sufficient returns had been made to allow the FAA to 
accommodate most requests for ad hoc flights through the end of the 
season on October 30, 2021. Most of the ad hoc increases have been by 
domestic and foreign air carriers for cargo operations at JFK and by 
domestic carriers for passenger operations at EWR. In addition, cargo 
and passenger carriers at several airports requested and were approved 
for ad hoc retiming of some flights previously approved for different 
times. Some of those carriers indicated these changes are intended to 
reflect temporary adjustment to their network operations related to 
COVID-19 impacts. Other requests for ad hoc slots or flight approval 
have been primarily requests for restoration of short-term flights that 
were previously returned and additional flights often identified as 
repatriation or special cargo flights. Despite significant returns, the 
FAA has not received any requests for ad hoc flights at DCA and only a 
small number of requests for ad hoc flights at LGA beyond limited 
inquiries from carriers seeking permanent slot allocations.
    Finally, the FAA received comments from some individuals and 
anonymous commenters suggesting that relief should be continued for 
domestic operations. The FAA notes that no U.S. carrier or industry 
advocate has petitioned the FAA for such continued relief for domestic 
operations. Indeed, comments from industry reflect a consensus view 
that demand in the United States for domestic travel is rebounding and 
further relief would be detrimental to recovery.

Discussion of Additional Issues Raised in Comments

    The FAA received individualized responses from some carriers to the 
questions posed to carriers in FAA's proposal. This information will be 
useful in FAA's administration of this waiver and the additional 
information provided is consistent with the policy in this final 
notice. To the extent that some commenters question FAA's authority to 
manage slots and facilitate schedules or seek to supersede this 
proceeding entirely by encouraging the federal government to establish 
broader aviation industry recovery policies and/or change the 
regulatory policy landscape for managing slots and schedule 
facilitation in the United States, such comments are deemed to be 
outside the scope of this proceeding.

Decision

    The FAA has determined to extend through March 26, 2022, the COVID-
19-related limited, conditional waiver of the minimum slot usage 
requirement at JFK, LGA, and DCA that the FAA has already made 
available through October 30, 2021, for international operations only. 
Similarly, the FAA has determined to extend through March 26, 2022, its 
COVID-19-related limited, conditional policy for prioritizing flights 
canceled at designated IATA Level 2 airports in the United States (EWR,

[[Page 58141]]

LAX, ORD, and SFO), for purposes of establishing a carrier's 
operational baseline in the next corresponding season, for 
international operations only. This relief is limited to slots and 
approved operating times used by any carrier for international 
operations only, through March 26, 2022, and will be subject to the 
same terms and conditions, with minor modifications, as previously 
explained herein.
    As of the date of issuance of this notice, U.S. domestic air travel 
demand and vaccination rates have reached a level that the FAA believes 
no longer necessarily justifies COVID-19-related slot usage relief 
domestically. However, COVID-19 continues to present a highly unusual 
and unpredictable condition for international operations that is beyond 
the control of carriers. Indeed, foreign carriers in many parts of the 
world are prevented from operating to the United States due to 
governmental restrictions resulting from COVID-19. The continuing 
impacts of COVID-19 on global aviation are dramatic and extraordinary, 
with an unprecedented decrease in passenger demand for international 
air travel globally.
    Therefore, the FAA believes an extension of conditional relief for 
international operations only, through March 26, 2022, is reasonable 
due to fluctuating travel restrictions and ongoing economic and health 
impacts of COVID-19 internationally. The available relief is expected 
to provide carriers with flexibility during this unprecedented 
situation and to support the long-term viability of international 
operations at slot-controlled and IATA Level 2 airports in the United 
States.\35\ Continuing relief for this additional period is reasonable 
to mitigate the impacts on passenger demand for international air 
travel resulting from the spread of COVID-19 worldwide.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \35\ The FAA is responsible to develop plans and policy for the 
use of 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, 85 
FR 58258 (Sep. 18, 2020); Operating Limitations at New York 
LaGuardia Airport, 85 FR 58255 (Sep. 18, 2020).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    While the FAA is providing continued, conditional, relief through 
the Winter 2021/2022 season for international operations, carriers 
should not assume that further relief will be forthcoming beyond the 
end of the Winter 2021/2022 scheduling season. The FAA will review the 
facts and circumstances at the time of any future waiver requests; 
however, the FAA will also continue to consider the importance of 
providing access to the Nation's congested airports where there is 
capacity available. Slots are a scarce resource. Slot usage waivers 
accordingly are reserved for extraordinary circumstances. Even during 
an extraordinary period such as the COVID-19 pandemic, carriers should 
utilize their slots and operating authorizations efficiently, in 
accordance with established rules and policy, or relinquish those slots 
and authorizations to the FAA so that other carriers willing and able 
to make use of them can do so. The FAA cautions all carriers against 
altering plans for usage at slot-controlled and Level 2 airports in 
reliance upon a presumption that additional relief will be forthcoming, 
which is a decision on which the FAA has not made at this time. The 
presumption that carriers should apply in preparing for operations in 
future scheduling seasons is compliance with standard slot management 
and schedule facilitation processes.
    The FAA reiterates its expectation that foreign slot coordinators 
will provide reciprocal relief to U.S. carriers. 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. 
The FAA acknowledges that some foreign jurisdictions may opt to adopt 
more strict provisions in response to this policy than they had 
otherwise planned. However, as previously explained, the FAA believes 
the conditions associated with the relief provided in this policy are 
necessary to strike a balance between competing interests of incumbent 
carriers and those carriers seeking new or increased access at these 
historically-constrained airports, as well as to ensure the relief is 
appropriately tailored to reduce the potential for a long-term waiver 
to suppress flight operations for which demand exists. 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
    The FAA emphasizes that it strongly encourages carriers to return 
slots and approved schedules voluntarily as soon as possible and for as 
long a period as possible during the Winter 2021/2022 season, so that 
other airlines seeking operations on an ad hoc basis may do so with 
increased certainty. The rolling four-week return deadline is only a 
minimum requirement, and FAA anticipates that carriers may often be 
able to provide notice of cancellations significantly further in 
advance than four weeks. In both the Level 2 and slot-controlled 
environments, the FAA seeks the assistance of all carriers to continue 
to work with the FAA to ensure the national airspace system capacity is 
not underutilized during the COVID-19 pandemic.
    Carriers should advise the FAA Slot Administration Office of COVID-
19-related cancellations and return the slots to the FAA by email to [email protected] to obtain relief. The information provided should 
include the dates for which relief is requested, the flight number, 
origin/destination airport, scheduled time of operation, the slot 
identification number, as applicable, and supporting information 
demonstrating that flight cancellations directly relate to the COVID-19 
pandemic. Carriers providing insufficient information to clearly 
identify slots that will not be operated at DCA, JFK, or LGA will not 
be granted relief from the applicable minimum usage requirements. 
Carriers providing insufficient information to identify clearly changes 
or cancellations from previously approved schedules at EWR, LAX, ORD, 
or SFO will not be provided priority for future seasons.

    Issued in Washington, DC, on October 18, 2021.
Lorelei Dinges Peter,
Assistant Chief Counsel for Regulations.
Virginia T. Boyle,
Vice President, System Operations Services.
[FR Doc. 2021-22988 Filed 10-18-21; 4:15 pm]
BILLING CODE 4910-13-P