Letter from the Editor: May 01, 2022

Airlines require their flights to operate at full capacity in order to earn maximum profit. But of late, airlines have been flying planes with few passengers or none at all. A ‘ghost flight’ is a flight that travels along a planned route with fewer than 10% of its seats filled.

Busy airports have more airlines that want to run flights than the airports can accommodate. Therefore, they divide the total number of flights they can handle into slots, which allows airlines to take full advantage of airport infrastructure necessary for a flight to arrive or depart. If airlines do not stick to these allocated slots, they risk losing them to a competitor. Before the pandemic, airlines in Europe were required to use their slots 80% of the time in order to retain them. During the pandemic, the number of passengers decreased sharply. Other countries dropped their slot rules temporarily, but Europe changed it to 25% initially and to 50% at the end of last year. The ‘use it or lose it’ slot rule forced airlines to run planes even if they were empty.

The biggest concern here is the impact that these unnecessary flights are having on the environment. Air travel contributes to at least 2.5% of the world’s carbon emissions. Flights burn around 20 litres of fuel per 1.6kms. Can you imagine what these ghost flights are doing to the environment?

Aviation authorities will have to come up with a new flexible system that allows airport slots to be used optimally so that the current climate crisis doesn’t get worse. If you can think of a solution to this problem, e-mail us on [email protected]


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