Airlines for America (A4A), the trade body representing ten large US airlines and Air Canada as an associate member, has called upon the US Department of Transportation to extend a waiver on minimum slot usage rules pertaining to routes to China and Japan.

The airlines' representatives argue that despite the reopening of both Japan (in October 2022) and China (in early January 2023) to international travel, demand 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," Vice-President (International Affairs) Keith Glatz wrote.

The letter does not mention the ongoing restriction on the number of flights between the US and China to 12 per week per country. Despite the removal of COVID-related entry rules in China, the cap on the number of flights remains in place.

"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 argued.

The FAA suspended its normal minimal slot usage rules in mid-March 2020, given the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. The waiver has since been seasonally extended, although with a gradual tightening of the rules. On October 28, 2022, the FAA announced the return of standard rules at all seven slot-controlled airports (Washington National, New York JFK, New York La Guardia, San Francisco, CA, Newark, Los Angeles International, and Chicago O'Hare) as a baseline. However, the regulator also mandated that it would allow individual "justified requests by US and foreign air carriers for usage waivers based on reciprocity and other related circumstances". Under normal rules, slots not used 80% of the time are withdrawn from the airline.