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The Coronavirus’ Ghost Flights

The Coronavirus’ Ghost Flights
Taylor Rains

As the coronavirus continues to spread, and airlines are having to cancel more and more flights, European carriers have been forced to operate something called “ghost flights.”

What Are Ghost Flights?

Ghost flights are when an airline flies an empty plane to specific cities for the purpose of maintaining its airport slot rights. This is done to adhere to the 80/20 rule, which states a carrier must operate 80% of its allocated slots, or risk a competitor taking it during a yearly assessment. The regulation was created decades ago in order “to ensure that airlines have access to the busiest EU airports on the basis of principles of neutrality, transparency, and non-discrimination.” Airlines essentially have to prove they have enough demand to justify each slot.

According to Simple Flying, a company called Airport Coordination Limited (ACL), which is heavily involved in the allocation of these slots, has a strong influence on the aviation industry and is holding up suspension of the rule in Europe, although it has lifted it for flights to and from Hong Kong and mainland China.

Environmental Concerns

This “use it or lose it” rule is forcing airlines to operate ghost flights, but it is costly and will negatively impact the environment. According to the New York Post, some aircraft can burn through five gallons of jet fuel for each mile flown, which is money burned and half a ton of carbon dioxide emitted per seat.

Because of the environmental concerns, airlines and agencies are calling for a suspension of the rule. U.K. Airlines CEO Tim Alderslade, whose company represents U.K.-registered carriers, stated, “Temporary suspension will enable U.K. airlines to respond to market conditions with appropriate capacity and avoiding any need to run empty flights in order to maintain slot rights.” The International Air Transportation Association (IATA) has also contacted regulators worldwide to make the same request.

Fears Worsen

Over 100,000 cases of the virus have been reported across the globe, and concerned people have been stocking up on as much hand sanitizer and face masks they can get their hands on. Airlines are worried about the impact on the industry as customers cancel flights, and IATA has calculated a possible $113 billion industry loss if the virus spreads. Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly expressed concern, “At the end of last week, we started seeing very sharp declines. It has a 9/11-like feel.”

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1 Comment

  1. jrpallante

    March 11, 2020 at 5:41 am

    It would be funny to see the airlines flying a Cessna 162 on these routes to keep their slots!

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