European Airlines Are Flying Ghost Flights Amidst The Coronavirus Outbreak

According to an article published by Business Insider, airlines have already wasted thousands of gallons of fuel running what are essentially “ghost flights” — flights with no passengers — during the coronavirus outbreak. According to European travel law, if airline operators don’t run at least 80% of their allocated flight slots they risk losing them to a competitor. For those unaware, the Federal Aviation Administration defines a “flight slot” as “an authorization to either take-off or land at a particular airport on a particular day during a specified time period.” The process of determining flight slots is lengthy and relies on what are known as “historic slots” — so rather than risk losing a slot they may have held for a long time, airline carriers are still flying planes despite demands for flights severely shrinking as a result of coronavirus panic.

In a letter written by the UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps addressed to Airport Coordination Limited, Shapps called for the rules to be suspended during the outbreak to prevent any unnecessary environmental and economic damage that would result from flying the empty planes throughout Europe.

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

Word! Business Insider reports that the ACL has suspended the rules for flights to and from Hong Kong and mainland China, but the rules currently remain in place for all other flights, despite Italy suffering the largest outbreak outside of Asia and several new cases appearing around the European continent.

People on Twitter had plenty of thoughts for the gross environmental waste this creates.

Currently, there are no reports of the US running “ghost flights” as a result of reduced demand and travel bans — although airport crowds and flight loads have been significantly lighter.