The United States Department of Transportation on Feb. 19 issued a first notice in favor of granting Puerto Rico a waiver for expanded cargo and passenger flexibility at its international airports to promote their use as international hubs for air cargo. If approved, the waiver would be in effect for two years, allowing foreign air carriers authorized to serve the U.S. to enable expanded cargo and passenger-transfer activities through Puerto Rico.
The news comes following Puerto Rico’s initial request in June 2019 for the exemption, one that has previously been granted to Alaska, Hawaii and Guam.
The DOT outlined its tentative decision in the notice saying Puerto Rico’s request is consistent with its public interest to grant exemption authority to foreign carriers to operate transshipment services to Puerto Rico. The federal agency also proposed making the authority effective for two years from the date the action is finalized, while maintaining the right to amend, modify or revoke the exemption authority, should circumstances warrant.
Despite initial contentions raised against the request, the DOT concluded that Puerto Rico had successfully demonstrated that a basis for the public interest exists due to the relief economic development and benefits that cargo and tourism traffic could afford the island, which is still recovering from Hurricane Maria.
Comments or objections to the notice are required to be submitted to the federal agency within 14 days after the date of service of the notice. If objections are filed, answers to objections are due no later than seven calendar days thereafter. In the event no objections are filed, the agency will enter an order making its tentative findings final.
So ultimately, although the determination of the order is not final, it represents a significant advance for Puerto Rico from its initial request last year.