Coronavirus: Minister concerned over environmental impact of ‘ghost flights’

Rules that are prompting British airlines to operate ‘ghost’ flights during the coronavirus crisis due to fears they will lose their airport slots should be relaxed because of concern over the environmental impact of empty flights, the transport secretary has said.

'Ghost flights': aviation industry has been hit hard by coronavirus crisis (Image by danielborker6 from Pixabay)

In a letter to Airport Coordination Limited, the UK’s independent airport slot coordinator, Grant Shapps expressed concern that, in order to retain slots, “airlines may be forced to fly aircraft at very low load factors, or even empty”.

“Such a scenario is not acceptable,” Shapps wrote. “It is not in the industry’s, the passengers’, or the environment’s interest and must be avoided.”

Shapps urged the independent body to “explicitly take into account the implications of flying empty planes on the UK’s environmental commitments in reaching your decision on alleviation”.

The so-called 80/20 rule requires airlines to operate 80% of their allocated airport slots under normal circumstances or risk losing them to a competitor.

The Times reported yesterday that one UK airline feared that, without a relaxation of the rules, it would be forced to operate 32 flights over the next three weeks with an average of only 40% of seats filled.