Sat. Jan 22nd, 2022

Rows of empty aircraft seats on a plane i 2020  Seats are gray with white headrest

An empty Swiss Air flight from Munich, Germany to Zurich, Switzerland in March 2020.
Pictures: Pictures of Sven Creutzmann / Mambo (Getty Images)

Some industries have been hit harder by the Kovid-19 epidemic than by air travel; With so few people flying for business or pleasure, airlines have flown “ghost flights” to secure their takeoff and landing slots at airports.

Such flights are passenger-free but still fuel their imaginary journey. A familiar word In the early days of the epidemic, but the Covid-19 has been in the air since it engulfed the world two years ago. Ghost flights are a point of contention in Europe this week, as airlines have complained that they will be forced to fly more because of another sinking of air travel.

Lufthansa CEO Kirsten Spohr Frankfurter Allgemeine told the Sunday newspaper As a result, the company is canceling more flights than expected this winter omicron variant growth Europe. And it will be even more canceled if the airports do not allocate gates the way they do.

“Due to declining demand in January, we would cancel even more flights. In winter, however, we will have to operate 18,000 additional, unnecessary flights to secure our takeoff and landing rights, “said Spohr, adding that flights to Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Belgium were particularly affected.

Lufthansa is not the only airline that has said it will launch more ghost flights in the coming months. “From now until March, we will have to operate 3,000 flights, mainly in Europe,” said Mike Andreas, a spokesman for Brussels Airlines. Brussels told the Times. “We would rather discard them, and avoid them in the interests of the environment.”

Vacant seat of Lufthansa Airbus A340.

Vacant seat of Lufthansa Airbus A340.
Pictures: Daniel Rowland / AFP (Getty Images)

But Andrews added that when the number of flights falls below the minimum required to maintain take-off and landing rights, it’s a problem, because “such slots are essential for an airline.” And there’s the rubbish: airlines are betting on market rebounding and not wanting to fall behind their competitors. They are willing to burn fuel in the short term, even if it has a catastrophic effect on the climate.

Airports trade body Airports Council International (ACI) Europe has challenged European airlines’ claims, however, and has confirmed the European Commission’s position on airport slot thresholds (airlines currently have to operate 50% slots or risk losing them, up to 80% pre-mahram). . Was 80% threshold Postponed to March 2020, And the 50% threshold is set to expire at the end of March 2022, although that expiration may be pushed to the end of the summer of 2022, Brussels Times Report.

“Some airlines are claiming that they are being forced to operate a large number of empty flights to retain the right to use airport slots. There is no reason for this to be the case, “said Olivier Jankovic, ACI Europe’s director general. Let’s work together on the important task of recovery and reconstruction. “

After announcing the 50% threshold, the Director General of the International Air Transport Association, Dr. Described The decision is “out of touch with reality.” The association, which represents about 300 airlines that make up 82% of global air traffic, estimated that international travel would be about 34% of the 2019 level by the end of 2021 — and that was when the Omicron variant was just a blink of an eye in the epidemic. .

This is not just an economic headache, but an environmental embarrassment. Air travel is also incredibly harmful, responsible for the climate About 2.4% of global carbon pollution Pre-epidemic. You could argue that full flights of people had at least one purpose to get people to and from a location, but ghost flights save slots at airports for some unexpected future..

This week marks the two-year anniversary of the World Health Organization Report A cluster of pneumonia cases that would be identified as Covid-19. And we are still flying empty planes, keeping the seats warm for industries that will not fully recover until the epidemic is truly over.

More: I made peace with less flying

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