What are Ghost flights ? – Why are airlines flying flights empty ?

Air India B787-8 with Sri Lankan A330 departing

The coronavirus has affected the aviation industry worldwide. This has caused cancellation and reduction of flights due to low demand and the industry estimates close to $113 billion loss. Even in this scenario, airlines are forced to operate flights without any passengers. These flights are called ‘Ghost flights’.

What are ghost flights ?

Ghost flight is a flight which is operated by airlines without any passengers in order to stop the risk of losing the slot at the airport it operates to. A slot is a timeline within which an airline can land and takeoff. Typically slots at high demand airports such as London Heathrow can cost upto $70million. The value of a slot can also depend on the time of the day the flight is operated.

Why do airlines operate ghost flights ?

Airlines operate ghost flights due to a rule as per the European Commission that if airlines fail to use 80% of their allocated slots at an airport then they risk losing these to other airlines during the yearly assessment of government officials. This past week the UK transport secretary Grant Shapps wrote to regulators urging them to relax these rules  considering the situation of the aviation industry.

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