European airlines are flying almost empty planes this winter to maintain airport slots


A Boeing 747-8 Lufthansa plane takes off from Tegel Airport in Berlin.

Britta Pedersen | AFP | Getty Images

European airlines this winter are sometimes flying almost empty airliners to maintain the coveted takeoff and landing points at airports during periods of low travel demand.

Recent publicity about this usage requirement has sparked controversy and anger during growing international concerns about climate change and the carbon emissions produced by the aviation industry.

Meanwhile, airport industry representatives advocate and defend the need to maintain commercial viability, connectivity, and competitiveness.

Airlines complain about the so-called “use or lose” slot rules established by the European Commission, the EU’s executive body, which was suspended in March 2020 as the industry was hit by a Covid-19 pandemic. I have stated. After that, it will be gradually revived, and the airline will have to use 50% of the assigned airport slots. That number is expected to increase to 80% this summer.

The German airline Lufthansa is one of those airlines and has already cut about 33,000 flights in winter as a variant of Omicron is hampering demand. Still, the CEO says he needs to make 18,000 flights in the winter to meet the slot usage requirements. Its subsidiary, Brussels Airlines, must fly nearly 3,000 almost empty flights by the end of March.

“We could have cut a lot more flights due to sluggish demand in January.” Lufthansa Group CEO Karsten Shupoul told a German newspaper In late December. “But we have to make an additional 18,000 unnecessary flights in winter just to secure the right to take off and land.”

He added: “During the pandemic, climate-friendly exemptions were found in almost every other part of the world, but the EU does not allow this as well. It is harmful to the climate and is the exact opposite of the EU. The European Commission wants to achieve this with the “Fit for 55” program. “

The Pratt & Whitney PW1000G turbofan engine was installed on the wings of an Airbus A320neo aircraft during a delivery ceremony outside the Airbus Group SE plant in Hamburg, Germany, on Friday, February 12, 2016.

Bloomberg | Krisztian Bocsi

The “Fit for 55” program was adopted by the European Commission in July 2021 to meet the EU’s new goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030.

Faced with criticism from airlines and environmentalists, airport industry representatives oppose “there is no reason” that thousands of nearly empty flights should become a reality.

Airport Council Advocates “Important Air Connection”

The Airports Council International (ACI), an airport industry group, has expressed support for the European Commission’s position, and lowering the airport slot slot slot to 50% is “a terrible blown market uncertainty. It was designed to reflect the vulnerable recovery of sex and aviation. “

“Some airlines claim they are forced to carry out a large number of empty flights to retain airport slot usage rights. There is no reason for this to happen,” ACI Europe said. Olivier Jankoveck, Director-General of the company, said: Statement in early January.

He rejected the notion that a completely empty “ghost flight” was flying. The airline itself also states that it is not completely empty, often has very few passengers, and will be canceled if the slot is not used. Requirements.

“Of course, low-load factors are a reality throughout the pandemic, but maintaining significant air connections for both economic and social demands is well documented … essential connections. It is a delicate task to counter the anti-competitive consequences of balancing the need to maintain and protect and commercial viability. “

Conflicting carbon reduction goals?

Environmental activists are not impressed. Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg quoted a Belgian newspaper headline last week: “Brussels Airlines has made 3,000 unnecessary flights to maintain airport slots.” “The EU is certainly in climate emergency mode …”

According to the Commission, the aviation sector produces about 14% of carbon emissions from total transportation and is the second largest source of transportation greenhouse gas emissions after road travel. With the top 10 emitters.

The The European Commission states on its own website “Aviation is one of the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions,” he said. “We are taking steps to reduce aviation emissions in Europe.”

Belgium’s Minister of Mobility Georges Gilkinet described the agency’s flight requirements as “environmental, economic and social nonsense.” He wrote to the European Commission this month, demanding more flexibility for airlines to keep unbooked planes on the ground.

However, a committee spokesman said the current 50% threshold is sufficient reduction to reflect consumer demand and provide “continuous air connectivity that is highly needed by citizens.” I said there is.

Airlines seeking exemptions

Lufthansa spokesman Boris Ogleski told CNBC Wednesday that he believed the Commission’s slot rule of 80% use in the summer of 2022 was “appropriate.” However, he said, “But air traffic has not yet been normalized. Due to the development of new viral variants and the consequent travel restrictions, the situation remains volatile and tax exemptions are still needed. “.

“Not only next summer 2022, but also the current winter flight schedule 21/22 will need more flexibility in a timely manner,” Ogleski said. “Without the flexibility associated with these crises, airlines are forced to fly almost empty planes just to secure slots.”

He added that this practice is not practiced outside of Europe. “Other parts of the world are taking a more pragmatic approach, for example, temporarily suspending slot rules due to the current pandemic situation. This benefits the climate and airlines.”

ACI’s Jankovec emphasized a clause called “legitimate non-use of slots”. This will allow the airline to present the case to the slot coordinator, saying, “We will be able to effectively use the assigned airport slots in less than 50% of the time.” ..

For Lufthansa, this provision is not very useful as the airline can only exempt a single flight connection. “This option is not applicable to most of the flights booked weekly, and as a result, the current winter schedule (November 21st to March 22nd),” he said.

Maaike Andries, Media Relations Manager at Brussels Airlines, also revealed that flights taking off to meet airport slot usage standards are not empty. Rather, for the upcoming winter season, some airline flights are “not enough to make a profit.”

“These flights are usually canceled to prevent unnecessary flights from both an ecology and economic perspective,” Maaike added. “However, if you cancel all these flights, this means that you are below the minimum limit for maintaining slots. This is a European law, so the same issue applies to all European airlines. increase.”

“Other continents avoid these unwanted flights and have appropriate exceptions to normal regulation, but in Europe we need more flexibility.”

European airlines are flying almost empty planes this winter to maintain airport slots

Source link European airlines are flying almost empty planes this winter to maintain airport slots

The post European airlines are flying almost empty planes this winter to maintain airport slots appeared first on Eminetra.


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