European Union to suspend rule concerning coronavirus ghost flights

Published on : Wednesday, March 11, 2020


Struggling airlines will get a lifeline as officials at the European Union are seeking to suspend rules that makes it mandatory to run almost empty planes  to maintain the prized landing slots.


Carriers are subjected to a ‘use it or lose it’ rule considering the EU airport regulations. In an allocated slot they are supposed to operate 80 per cent of the flights else they might lose the automatic right to it in future seasons.


The European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen has mooted suspending the rule because airlines are battling collapsing demand in the face of the coronavirus outbreak.


She went on saying that the proposed measure will help both the European industry and the environment.


On the whole aviation industry and in particular on smaller airline companies it will release the pressure and also decrease emissions by avoiding so-called ‘ghost flights’ where airlines fly almost empty aircraft simply to keep their slots.

The airlines will be able to adjust their capacity considering the falling demand caused by the outbreak.

The commission will in due course present a legislative proposal taking the urgency into consideration and will call on the European parliament and the council to swiftly adopt this measure in co-decision procedure.


The move was welcomed by Shai Weiss, chief executive of Virgin Atlantic.


He said that as with airlines around the world, the impact of Covid-19 on their bookings has been significant and requires a swift response, which the transport secretary has recognised.


It is a positive step, but they  urgently expected detail of these measures, and confirmation that alleviation will apply to all markets for the full summer season.


He went on saying that prompt publishing of the legislation will allow the UK slot co-ordinator to act, enabling Virgin Atlantic and other airlines to operate schedules more efficiently and avoid flying almost empty planes for the sake of retaining valuable slots, which in turn creates unnecessary carbon emissions.


The current situation was branded as ‘absurd’ by  Nick Wyatt, head of the travel and tourism at GlobalData.He said that the practice flies in the face of government green initiatives across Europe, unnecessarily burning fuel and creating carbon emissions.The commission needs to act so van der Leyen’s statement is welcome news.Emissions created by these flights can be erased altogether and associated fuel cost savings will also be warmly welcomed by airlines at this extremely trying time.This practice is a result of necessity rather than choice.


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