At least 100,000 “ghost flights” could be flown across Europe this winter because of EU airport slot usage rules, according to analysis by Greenpeace.
The deserted, unnecessary or unprofitable flights are intended to allow airlines to keep their takeoff and landing runway rights in major airports, but they could also generate up to 2.1 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions – or as much as 1.4 million average petrol or diesel cars emit in a year – Greenpeace says.
“The EU Commission requiring airlines to fly empty planes to meet an arbitrary quota is not only polluting, but extremely hypocritical given their climate rhetoric,” said Herwig Schuster, a spokesperson for Greenpeace’s European Mobility for All campaign.
“Transport emissions are skyrocketing,” he said. “It would be irresponsible of the EU to not take the low-hanging fruit of ending ghost flights and banning short-haul flights where there’s a reasonable train connection.”
When the Covid pandemic began, the European Commission cut the benchmark for flight operations that airlines must meet to keep their slots open from 80% to 25%.
But last December, Brussels upped the benchmark to 50%, rising again to 64% in March.
The European Commission denies that air carriers are operating ghost flights, or that its “use it or lose it” slot rules have created problems.
A commission spokesperson said: “Empty flights are bad for the economy and the environment which is exactly why we took several measures allowing companies to not have such empty flights. If airline companies decide to keep empty flights, this is a company decision, which is not the result of EU rules.”
Brussels argues that it has already cut slot requirements and that airlines can request that even those be stood down if flights are disrupted by “severe sanitary measures” such as new government travel restrictions.
Read more via The Guardian