Virus turbulence forces airlines to operate ‘ghost flights' - GulfToday

Virus turbulence forces airlines to operate ‘ghost flights'


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Gulf Today Report

The coronavirus has made a huge impact on virtually every segment of life, including trade and industry. The travel sector appears to be one of the hardest hit.

International airlines including British Airways and Cathay Pacific have drastically truncated routes to such places as northern Italy and South East Asia as demand sharply plummets.

As a result, pictures of empty airports have become a normal sight.

Passengers have taken to social media to share such photographs.

The drop in demand has seen a new phenomenon: airlines operating ‘ghost flights.’

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 carbon dioxide 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 announced it would reduce flights, freeze hiring and ask employees to volunteer for unpaid leave owing to poor demand for travel, according to a report.

"Temporary suspension will enable UK 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 a British newspaper.

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.

Hong Kong Airport, usually one of the busiest in the world, has cut hundreds of flights as it deals with a lack of passenger demand due to the coronavirus.

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