Air carriers operating ‘ghost flights’ amid Covid-19 turbulence

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London, March 10 (IANS) Several international airlines are now operating ‘ghost flights’ with more and more air travellers cancelling their plans owing to the new coronavirus outbreak.
Virgin Atlantic is operating near-empty flights in order to “retain take-off and landing slots at major airports such as Heathrow”, reports the BBC.
Under the European law, air carriers like Delta, American Airlines, and Southwest pay top dollars to secure prime spots at busy airports but they risk losing to a competitor if they don’t use the slots at least 80 per cent of the time.
To maintain this 80 per cent requirement, airlines are forced to fly empty with little or no passengers on board.
“Today I’ve written to the EU Commission urging an end to the ‘use-it-or-lose-it’ rule that’s leading to ‘ghost planes’ during this COVID-19 outbreak. Temporary relief now makes both environmental and financial sense,” tweeted UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.
In the UK, the rules apply to Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Manchester, London Luton and London City, said the report.
Some planes can burn five gallons of jet fuel per mile of flight, emitting tonnes of CO2 and other greenhouse gases.
“Even the BA flight Houston-London (not two heavy-plagued areas with #coronavirus #COVID2019 at the moment) is almost empty. Surreal times,” tweeted a user with a picture.
United Airlines has announced they will reduce flights, freeze hiring and ask employees to volunteer for unpaid leave aming poor demand for travel, reports Fox News.
Airline passenger numbers have fallen dramatically globally in recent weeks due to the coronavirus outbreak.
On certain international routes, the operations have halved.
“Temporary suspension will enable U.K. airlines to respond to market conditions with appropriate capacity and avoiding any need to run empty flights in order to maintain slot rights,” said Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK in a statement shared with The Sunday Times.
According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), air carriers could lose upwards of $113 billion in revenue this year if coronavirus continues to spread.