There is something worse than a car in a queue with only one person inside it, able every morning to make the same journey that dozens of other commuters do, without sharing the unused space in the other seats. It is a multitude of planes sent flying without any passengers, in the midst of the climate crisis, in order not to lose a precedence established by the bureaucracy.
More and more planes are taking off with empty seats, especially with bookings collapsed due to the arrival of the Omicron variant. But keeping the aircraft on the ground seems impossible: Airlines are obliged to take off according to certain European rules, which were established years ago. The most absurd is the following: if an airline has a 15-minute time slot between take-off or landing, it can maintain it permanently; the trick is to use it at least 80% of the time. Anyone who does not use the slot loses precedence. “Planes fly with a handful of people on board. Sometimes with only the crew and zero passengers. The companies make the planes go empty or half-empty because – otherwise – they would lose the take-off and landing rights at the airports. Slots are a huge asset to carriers, but they can’t have them as they think. European rules have their own logic. For decades, the historic companies have had their hands on very convenient time windows for travelers in all the key airports of the continent. Owning certain slots puts the old companies in a position of advantage over the new carriers, especially low cost ones“, We read on Repubblica.
At the beginning of the Covid pandemic, the European Commission had suspended this rule due to the collapse of traffic; from 15 February 2021, the rate had been reduced to 50%. Then it went up again, but without the same question as in the past. There is something to review, it is evident. And the airlines themselves have asked for the intervention of the European Commission. They could have already decided independently to reduce the flights offered, all of them together: but it is clear that the associative capacities of the various boards of directors have not progressed sufficiently over time. The activist Greta Thunberg he asked his followers on Twitter (5 million) to protest, in light of the news that Brussels Airlines will have 3,000 of its planes taking off empty.
Lufthansa has already warned that 18,000 flights, or 5-6% of all their routes this winter, will be empty or with few passengers. The same company also declared a number of 33,000 flights canceled in the next few months. Carsten Spohr, managing director of the German group, told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: “While climate-friendly exceptions have been found in almost all other parts of the world in times of pandemics, the EU does not allow to do the same. The Brussels rules are bad for the climate and are the exact opposite of what the European Commission wants to achieve with its Fit for 55 program“. He is not entirely wrong: in July the European Commission announced the increase in the rate to 64% from until 22 March 2022, counting on the recovery of demand; the idea was to return to 80% in view of the summer; but the limit before the end was extended until October 29, 2022. We always return to the basic balance to be found, between the environment and the economy. And the former may not necessarily get its ‘slot’. But surely without the first there is no second.
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