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Passengerless flights: The ecological scandal of European aviation

Updated: Mar 16, 2023

Airlines in Europe this winter are flying passenger planes that are sometimes nearly empty in order to maintain coveted takeoff and landing points at airports during a period of declining travel demand.

Airport industry officials are fighting back, arguing the need to maintain commercial viability, connectivity and competitiveness.

Airlines have expressed frustration with the so-called "use-it-or-lose-it" slot rules set by the European Commission, the EU's executive body, which were suspended in March 2020 as the industry was crippled by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Since then, it has been gradually reinstated to require airlines to use 50% of the airport slots allocated to them. This figure is expected to rise to 80% this summer.

German airline Lufthansa is one of these airlines and has already cut some 33,000 flights during the winter season as the omicron variant hampers demand.

Nonetheless, Lufthansa must operate 18,000 flights during the winter season to meet its slot utilization requirements, its CEO said.

Its Brussels Airlines subsidiary must make 3,000 near-empty flights by the end of March.

Its rules are intended to comply with the European "Fit for 55" program.

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

The aviation sector creates about 14% of global transport carbon emissions, making it the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions after road transport, according to the commission, which also says that if global aviation were a country, it would rank in the top 10 emitters.

Source : CNBC

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