Airlines Forced to Fly Empty ‘Ghost’ Planes to Keep Their Flight Slots During the Coronavirus Pandemic

  • Airlines are running empty ‘ghost’ flights during the coronavirus due to European rules forcing operators to use their allocated flights or lose their slots.
  • The rules are leading some airlines to waste thousands of metric tons of jet fuel flying empty planes in and out of Europe.
  • Demand for flights is collapsing worldwide with airline industry groups warning that the coronavirus crisis could wipe up to $113 billion off the value of the industry.
  • The UK’s Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has written to flight regulators demanding the ‘use it or lose it’ rules be suspended to stop the spread of ghost flights.

Airlines are wasting thousands of gallons of jet fuel running empty ‘ghost’ planes during the Coronavirus outbreak, due to European rules forcing operators to lose their flight slots if they keep their planes on the grounds.

Demand for flights has collapsed across the globe amid growing fears of the coronavirus pandemic.

However, under existing European rules airlines operating out of the continent must continue to run 80% of their allocated slots or risk losing them to a competitor.

This has led to some operators flying empty planes in and out of European countries at huge costs, the Times of London newspaper reported.

On Thursday the UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps wrote to the independent airport coordinator asking for the rules to be suspended during the crisis to prevent further unnecessary environmental and economic damage.

“I am particularly concerned that, in order to satisfy the 80/20 rule, airlines may be forced to fly aircraft at very low load factors, or even empty, in order to retain their slots,” Shapps wrote to Airport Co-ordination Ltd (ACL).

“Such a scenario is not acceptable. It is not in the industry’s, the passengers’ or the environment’s interest and must be avoided.”

ACL has already suspended the rule for flights to and from Hong Kong and mainland China. However, the rules remain in place for all other flights.

On Thursday UK airline Flybe went into administration with one airline trade group estimating that the crisis could wipe $113 billion off the value of the industry worldwide.