Empty planes are reportedly flying back and forth from airport to airport in Europe.
The decrease in travel demand across Europe due to the coronavirus outbreak has resulted in airlines flying empty “ghost flights” to ensure they do not lose their airport slots.
According to reports, several European-based airlines are carrying out the practice to ensure valuable slots are not taken away.
To demonstrate how valuable certain airport slots are, in February 2016, Oman Air paid Air France-KLM $75m for a pair of prime early morning slots.
The controversial European rules currently dictate that carriers must fly at least 80% of their flight allotments or risk losing them to a competitor.
Although the aviation coordination body, Airport Coordination Limited (ACL), has suspended the rules for flights to and from Hong Kong and mainland China, the regulations remain in place for all other flights globally.
Tim Alderslade, Chief Executive of Airlines UK, the industry body representing UK-registered airlines, has spoken publicly about the “use them or lose them” rule.
In a statement, Alderslade said: “The “use it or lose it” rule on airport slots – an airline’s right to take-off from a certain airport at a certain time – means that carriers are being forced to fly half-empty planes or risk losing that take-off slot in future, seriously affecting their ability to plan ahead.
“It makes no sense whatsoever under these unique and challenging circumstances to force airlines to fly empty aircraft, wasting money and fuel and creating carbon emissions. We urgently need a temporary suspension of the rule – as happened during the financial crisis – to allow airlines to respond to demand and use their aircraft efficiently.”
The aviation industry suspended the rule after both 9/11 and the financial crisis.