What is the ghost flight?

When we see a plane flying, we imagine it full of passengers or at least partially full. A lot of flights around the world are known as “ghost flights”. This was the result of pre-pandemic regulations which required carriers to make a minimum number of scheduled flights to avoid losing airport lots.

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A ghost flight is an empty flight with no to just a few passengers. Planes which transport prisoners are considered ghost planes, too.

Lufthansa Group, the parent company of several regional carriers including Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Eurowings, Lufthansa, and Swiss International Airlines has flown 18,000 flights without a single passenger on board this winter alone.

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Why do airlines operate ghost flights?

In Europe, airlines are enforced to make these same flights and routes in order to keep airport slots. In the U.S., there is a similar rule forced by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Also, the regulatory body in Europe is the European Commission which controls the ability of airports to enforce airlines to follow the rule of “use it or lose it” which means that airlines are obliged to use airport slots with 80% or lose the competition.

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Despite the available capacity in about 200 airports worldwide, it is not enough to give the opportunity to airlines to manage their aircrafts as they will and need. This is because of the lack of proper infrastructure, limited spaces, and available runways. Most airports divide the space into slots, every slot is arranged to be available for a specific time and period for a specific plane of a specific airline to land or take off from. Also, it has to arrive or land at a specific time by the airline.

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Problems of ghost flights

Air travel recorded about 2.5% of global carbon dioxide emissions. Ghost flight’s problem isn’t only the influence of emissions on the environment, but also the financial losses of the airlines, especially after Covid-19 and airport slot rules.

Although ghost flights seem to be unnecessary and affect the environmental climate, it also may be logical. Except for keeping airport slots precious, both trains and maintenance works make both the aircraft and the pilot current.

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