Europe's slot policy has put airlines and nature at risk. Thousands of flights were operated in "ghost" mode during the COVID-19 pandemic!

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Major airports in Europe manage air traffic based on slots. A landing slot, take-off slot or airport slot is a permission granted by the designated airport and allows the recipient to schedule a landing or departure at that airport within a certain period of time.


Airport slots are used at airports that are limited by runway capacity and/or parking space – in other words, where demand exceeds the airport's infrastructure capacity. As a rule, these airports are of the 3rd category.

Europe currently includes 180 Tier 3 and Tier 2 airports.. Certain airports experience seasonal variations following summer/winter destination trends. The summer season is significantly busier, with 104 coordinated airports, while this number drops to 76 in the winter season. Popular airports in the Mediterranean islands (eg the Greek islands, Ibiza, Menorca, Olbia) require slots during the summer season. 

The slot policy forces airlines to use them so as not to lose them. Slots at London Heathrow, Paris CDG, Frankfurt or Amsterdam Schiphol airports are highly sought after and have come to be rented for millions of dollars.

In this context, during the pandemic, thousands of "ghost" flights were operated so that air carriers would not miss them. Since 2019, more than 5.000 ghost flights have been reported at UK airports alone. These are flights with 10% load or less. Thousands of take-offs and landings were made in this way.

Thus, unnecessary traffic was generated at the airports, thousands of tons of fuel were consumed and they generated unnecessary expenses for the airlines, exposing them to the danger of bankruptcy. At a time when most countries of the world are discussing the effects of pollution, the aviation sector has generated CO2 from unnecessarily operated flights. Maybe the slot policy should be changed.

"Airlines have had to spend a lot of money needlessly to keep hard-to-get slot rights at most European airports. This method also creates unnecessary traffic at airports and increases air pollution," say experts, calling for these unnecessary slot regulations "to be repealed as soon as possible."

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