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No reason for airlines to operate ‘ghost flights’ – ACI Europe


ACI Europe has today expressed dismay at the escalating industry and political rhetoric around so-called ‘ghost flights’ and reiterated its strong support for the European Commission’s position on the thresholds for use of airport slots by airlines.

The usage threshold for the current season, Winter 21, is set at 50%, which as the European Commission has just reiterated, is significantly lower than the traditional 80/20 ‘use it or lose it’ principle applicable in normal times.

The current lower threshold is, of course, designed to reflect the uncertainties of a badly hit market and fragile recovery for aviation.

ACI Europe notes that crucially, and as a direct result of the ongoing uncertainties posed by the pandemic, there is also a specific provision in place for what the Worldwide Airport Slot Guidelines calls “Justified Non-Use of Slots” (JNUS).

The change means that airlines can apply to their slot co-ordinators to implement the new the provision at any time, effectively allowing them to use their allocated airport slots for less than 50% of the time.

The new ruling, says ACI Europe, is specifically designed to address the COVID pandemic, and covers not only outright travel bans, but also restrictions of movement, quarantine or isolation measures which impact the viability or possibility of travel or the demand for travel on specific routes.

As a result, it insists, that airlines are “very well protected from the current uncertainties” and negates the need for ‘ghost flights’, which are defined as those voluntarily operated by airlines exclusively for the purpose of retaining historic rights to their slots.

ACI Europe’s director general, Olivier Jankovec, says: “A few airlines are claiming they are forced to run high volumes of empty flights in order to retain airport slot usage rights. There is absolutely no reason why this should be the reality.

“As was clearly stated by the European Commission at their press briefing yesterday, slot usage rules need to achieve two things in the current circumstances. Firstly, to protect airlines from the worst of unpredictabilities which are out of all our hands. Secondly, and crucially, to also ensure that airport capacity is still used in a pro-competitive way.

“The pandemic has hit us all hard. Balancing commercial viability alongside the need to retain essential connectivity and protect against anti-competitive consequences is a delicate task. We believe that the European Commission has got this right.

“Talk of ghost flights, and of their environmental impacts, seems to hint at a doomsday scenario which has no place in reality.  Let’s stick to the vital task of recovering and rebuilding together.”

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