Teen’s solo transatlantic flight draws attention to wasteful ‘ghost flights’: NPR


European airlines are urging the European Union to change so-called “use it or lose it” regulations, forcing airlines to continue with empty or nearly empty flights.

Frank Augstein/AP


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Frank Augstein/AP


European airlines are urging the European Union to change so-called “use it or lose it” regulations, forcing airlines to continue with empty or nearly empty flights.

Frank Augstein/AP

Kai Forsyth lived it out on a recent British Airways flight from London to Florida. The 19-year-old freshman had the entire plane to himself, with only the pilots and flight crew on board to keep him company on the nearly 9-hour flight.

“The cabin crew said I was the only person on board the flight,” Forsyth wrote in a TikTok video about his Jan. 9 trip. Indeed, as the phone goes from side to side, a sea of ​​empty seats fills the frame.

Meanwhile, the crew seemed to love the solo traveler, treating him to an “unlimited” supply of airplane snacks and at least one flight attendant who sat on popcorn and movies with Forsyth, he said.

“It was eight o’clock, so I set up a bed. Literally the most comfortable I’ve ever been on a plane,” he added.

While the experience may have been a delight for Forsyth, so-called “ghost flights” — flights airlines must take if they want to maintain their assigned routes and airport gates — have become a flashpoint for environmentalists across Europe. They are calling for regulatory changes to prevent polluting aircraft from making flights that would normally be cancelled, while omicron has sharply reduced demand. Airlines are also putting pressure on the European Union to amend the rules at least until the autumn.

According to European Commission guidelines, the “80/20 rule” requires airlines to operate 80% of their allocated slot for at least 80% of the time. That was adjusted at the start of the pandemic and adjusted more recently to 50%, but those numbers still exceed the number of flights needed to meet current passenger demand. In addition, the pre-pandemic rate will be restored by March 2022.

Conservationists are trying to prevent that and have launched an online petition saying, “‘Ghost’ flights are of no use to anyone. This is an unnecessary, wasteful practice, and reforming historic rights to landing slots will put an end to this.” “

It continues: “At a time of climate emergency, we need to drastically reduce our use of fossil fuels, and in the context of our steadily declining carbon budget, it’s unbelievable that planes are flying empty.”

Earlier this month, Lufthansa announced it had operated 18,000 flights this winter that would otherwise have been canceled due to lack of passengers, including 3,000 with Brussels Airlines, which it owns.

That was the reason for the federal Minister of Mobility of Belgium to raise the issue with the European Commissioner for Transport. In a letter, the Belgian official described the current rules as “economic, ecological and social nonsense.”

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