(Adds comments, petition from airlines)
By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON, Feb 28 (Reuters) - The United States government on Monday proposed extending temporary waivers of international minimum flight requirements at some U.S. airports through late October due to COVID-19.
Airlines can lose their slots at some congested airports if they do not use them at least 80% of the time. The waivers have been in place since the pandemic began in March 2020. International passenger air travel in 2021 was down 46% to 61 million over 2019 levels, but up over the 34 million international air passengers in 2020.
The Federal Aviation Administration said it proposed extending temporary waivers of the requirements at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and LaGuardia airport and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport that were set to expire in October after petitions from airlines.
At four other U.S. airports where the FAA has a formal schedule-review process - Chicago O’Hare, Newark in New Jersey, Los Angeles and San Francisco - the agency proposes to extend credits to airlines for flights that were canceled in the pandemic as though those flights were operated.
The FAA said "based on global vaccination rates, changing infection rates and the threat of new virus strains, continued unpredictability of travel restrictions, and the disparity between demand for domestic air travel and demand for international air travel, extending the current limited, conditional waiver for international operations by all carriers, is reasonable."
The government said that American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines submitted a joint petition to "urgently request continued relief from standard international slot usage rules" during the 2022 summer season.
The airlines said the "COVID-19 pandemic continues to negatively impact worldwide air travel; the Omicron variant has caused governments to significantly restrict or control entry of passengers and airline crew members and unfortunately, the future remains unpredictable." (Reporting by David Shepardson; editing by Grant McCool)