European ‘ghost flights’ could produce up to 2.1 million tonnes of CO2 this winter, according to a recent Greenpeace analysis.
“Transport emissions are skyrocketing,” Herwig Schuster, a spokesperson for Greenpeace’s European Mobility for All campaign, told the Guardian.
“It would be irresponsible of the EU not to take the low-hanging fruit of ending ghost flights and banning short-haul flights where there’s a reasonable train connection.”
The question of ghost flights emerged in mid December when Lufthansa’s chief executive Carsten Spohr told German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung the airline was forced to operate around 18,000 half-empty flights just to retain its slots.
In the following weeks, Spohr’s comments sparked a debate, as low-cost carriers such as Ryanair and Wizz Air lambasted Lufthansa’s “crocodile tears”, pushing for legacy airlines to sell their slots if unable to use them, City A.M. reported.
“If Lufthansa doesn’t want to operate “ghost flights” to protect its slots, then simply sell these seats at low fares, and help accelerate the recovery of short and long haul air travel to and from Europe,” said Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary.
Under EU rules, airlines are required to use a certain percentage of their airport slots to retain them the following year. Before the pandemic, the requirement was 80 per cent but it was since dialled back. As the industry started to recover, the European Commission decided to bring the ratio up from 0 to 50 per cent, eventually pushing it to 64 per cent.
“The objective of the EU slot relief is to ensure that airlines can retain their historic slots without having to fly empty flights when health restrictions prevent passengers from travelling,” a Commission spokesperson told City A.M on 12 January. “Empty flights are bad for the economy and the environment.”