WASHINGTON — US airlines are requesting an extension of a waiver on minimum slot usage rules for routes to China and Japan. The request was made by Airlines for America (A4A), a trade organization representing ten major US airlines and Air Canada, in a letter to the US Department of Transportation.

The representatives of the airlines argue that despite the recent reopening of international travel to both Japan and China, demand for flights to these destinations remains weak.

"International air travel to China remains severely depressed due to cumbersome, uncertain, and constantly evolving travel requirements and entry barriers. While Japan is starting to reopen to international travel and, as a result, the US-Tokyo demand environment is improving, the pace of the rebound has been sluggish, and forward-looking demand remains choppy," A4A Vice-President of International Affairs Keith Glatz wrote in a recent letter sent to the DOT.

In the letter, the ongoing restriction limiting the number of flights between the US and China to 12 per week per country is not mentioned. Despite the lifting of COVID-related entry restrictions in China, the cap on the number of flights is still in effect.

"Our members do not foresee significant and certain international passenger growth in either China or Japan before the expiration of the Waiver Order on March 26, 2023, leading into the summer season," A4A said.

On October 28, 2022, the FAA announced the return of standard slot usage rules at seven major airports across the United States. This marks the end of a waiver period that was first implemented in mid-March 2020 in response to the initial wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. The standard rules dictate that slots not used 80% of the time be withdrawn from the airline. However, the FAA has also stated that it will consider "justified requests" from US and foreign air carriers for usage waivers based on reciprocity and other related circumstances.