U.S. Extends Slot Waivers For Flights To Asia

Credit: Joe Pries

The U.S. Transportation Department (DOT) has approved a request to extend airport slot waivers for certain routes to the Asia-Pacific region for the duration of the northern summer 2023 season.

Trade association Airlines for America (A4A) asked in January for the slot relief that has been in place since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020 to continue, arguing that ongoing relief is “necessary and justified” because demand in some markets remains “severely depressed.”

The DOT has now approved the request—which covers points in mainland China and Tokyo Haneda (HND), Japan—through Oct. 28. Under normal rules, carriers must operate at least 80% of their scheduled flights from slot-restricted airports or else they risk losing their slots.

A decision noticed published by the department said granting the waiver would continue to “serve the public interest” to allow airlines the flexibility to begin or resume international service as permitted by foreign governments and “as market conditions warrant, without risk that they will lose their route or frequency awards for non-use.”

It added that specific cases may call for relief beyond the end of the summer 2023 season and carriers may seek further extension of the waiver beyond Oct. 28 for specific city-pair limited entry services “where they can demonstrate that circumstances warrant.”

Mainland China dropped quarantine requirements for inbound passengers from Jan. 8 after three years of strict travel restrictions. Since then, international traffic between the U.S. and China has started to gradually increase.

OAG data shows that American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines are each operating routes to one point in the country at the present time, flying to Shanghai (PVG).

American serves Shanghai twice a week from Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW), operating via Seoul Incheon (ICN), while Delta also offers a 2X-weekly service from both Detroit (DTW) and Seattle (SEA) via Seoul.

United is the sole U.S. airline to serve mainland China nonstop, providing four round trips per week between San Francisco (SFO) and Shanghai.

However, from March 27 American is set to restart nonstop flights between Dallas-Fort Worth and Shanghai for the first time since March 2020, eliminating the stop in Seoul. Frequencies are also expected to double to 4X-weekly.

Prior to the COVID crisis, American served Shanghai and Beijing Capital (PEK) daily from both Dallas-Fort Worth and Los Angeles (LAX), while Delta offered daily routes to Beijing from Seattle and Detroit, as well as flights to Shanghai from Atlanta (ATL), Detroit Los Angeles and Seattle.

United provided nine nonstop U.S.-China routes, connecting Chicago O’Hare (ORD), Newark (EWR), San Francisco and Washington Dulles (IAD) with Beijing Capital; Chicago, Newark, Los Angeles and San Francisco with Shanghai; and San Francisco with Chengdu (CTU).

David Casey

David Casey is Editor in Chief of Routes, the global route development community's trusted source for news and information.