Lufthansa announced the implementation of empty or half-empty flights to save slots for takeoff and landing due to the requirements of the European Union. Belgium demanded to revise the rules due to environmental harm, but the EU authorities do not agree.
Several states in the European Union are demanding changes to the rules that force airlines to send empty or half-empty planes, called "ghost flights," The Financial Times reports.
Air carriers are required to use at least half of their flight slots this winter. The usual indicators that existed before the pandemic required airlines to use 80% of the slots for flights. During the pandemic, this indicator was reduced. If an airline is unable to make a flight, it must return the permits to make them for redistribution. Now, against the background of the spread of the omicron strain, air carriers and countries fear that they will not be able to carry out even 50% of flights.
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Thus, the Belgian Minister of Transport George Gilkinet, in a letter to the EU Commissioner for Transport Adina Valean, said that the established rules threaten the EU's goals to reduce emissions. He argues that "rapid action" is needed to lower the 50% threshold for the occupancy of slots for winter and summer this year, as well as before "until a way out of this coronavirus crisis is confirmed."
The government of the European Union is hindering this initiative, The Financial Times points out. In an interview with the publication, Valean said that the requirements provide "the necessary flexibility to prevent empty flights." This winter, about 77% of flights were made from the level of the pre-pandemic period, at the beginning of the year an indicator of 79% is predicted. "The impact of the fourth wave [of the spread of COVID-19] and the omicron variant on air transportation may not be as negative and long-term as [we] initially feared," she concluded.
At the end of December, the head of Lufthansa, Carsten Spohr, in an interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine, spoke about the sharp decline in the popularity of planned air travel at the beginning of 2022 and the need to perform 18 thousand "unnecessary flights" just to retain the slots with the right to take off and landing. He pointed out that in different parts of the world, the rules for airlines have been changed so as not to harm the environment, but the European Union is not ready for such a scenario.
"This harms the climate and is the exact opposite of what the EU Commission wants to achieve with its Fit for 55 program (the European Union's plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030. - RBC)," concluded Spur.
The Lufhansa-owned company Brussels Airlines has already completed about 3 thousand empty or almost empty flights this winter, writes the Belgian The Bulletin.
Sources: Financial Times, The Bulletin
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