New figures have revealed that more than 14,000 ghost flights have departed from UK airports throughout the whole Covid pandemic.
With 4,910 flights, Heathrow was crowned the airport with most ghost flights, while Manchester and Gatwick came in second and third place, with 1,548 and 1,044 flights respectively.
The figures, which include cargo flights and those used to repatriate Britons from abroad, amount to an average of 25 planes per day.
“Departing flights may operate with a low number of passengers for a range of reasons,” said Aviation minister Robert Courts. “Since the onset of the pandemic, the government has provided alleviation from the normal slot regulations that require airlines to operate 80 per cent of their slots in order to retain them for the following season.
“This means that airlines have not been required to operate empty or almost empty flights solely to retain their historic slots rights.”
Airport slot has been a delicate subject for airports and carriers not only in the UK but all across Europe, as it made the headlines following a spat between low-cost carrier and legacy ones.
Wizz Air and Ryanair have lambasted Lufthansa’s chief executive for saying the German carrier was forced to operate half-empty flights to retain its slots under EU rules, City A.M. reported.
Just like the EU, the British Government slashed airport slot rules when the pandemic started, but reintroduced a 50 per cent cap in October 2021. Following the removal of all Covid restrictions – including travel ones – the Department for Transport (DfT) is expected to ramp up to 70 per cent.