European Slot Flights Outrage Environmentalists


European environmental groups are howling in protest over reports that airlines will operate up to 100,000 empty flights in the next few months just to keep their slots at major airports. For much of the past two years, the European Commission had suspended the rule that airlines had to use at least 80 percent of their slot capacity to keep them. When travel restrictions eased, the commission set the limit at 50 percent and it’s due to rise to 64 percent in March. Thanks to the fallout from the Omicron wave, however, most carriers haven’t sold enough tickets to fill all the flights needed to make the slot quotas. 

Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr recently estimated his airline would have to fly 18,000 “extra, unnecessary” flights to keep those coveted slots while Brussels Airlines is estimating 3,000 so-called “ghost flights” will be in its schedule. Greenpeace has tallied them all up and come up with the 100,000 figure, estimating they will create 2.1 million tons of greenhouse gases. It called that “absurd and revolting.” Meanwhile, the group European Mobility For All called out the EU for creating the situation. “The EU Commission requiring airlines to fly empty planes to meet an arbitrary quota is not only polluting, but extremely hypocritical given their climate rhetoric,” the group said in a statement.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. One set of bureaucrats wants everyone to stop their lives and hide in the basement while another doesn’t want to accommodate changes in the society so caused. Swell. It’s no wonder there’s a trucker convoy; maybe they need an airliner shutdown in Europe for a month ? Problem is, that’d be like biting your nose off to spite your face.

    • I suspect putting the truckers in charge of the bureaucracies would cause less trouble than putting the bureaucrats in the cabs of the trucks. Sad state of affairs.

  2. Not just the environmentalists, but everyone who is traveling in Europe this year. Ticket prices will have to be inflated to cover the cost of the empty flights. Or are Europe’s taxpayers subsidizing the airlines?
    Why not have a realtime slot bidding system? If the number of flights is down so much, then surely there aren’t congestion problems at airports. Why have quotas at all?

  3. “European environmental groups are howling in protest….” And WHO are these “environmentalists” “howling” at? The airlines–or the “European Commission”?

    The “Commission” is made up of faceless bureaucrats–so people fault the easily identifiable airlines for protecting these artificial “slot” limitations.

    With lack of demand, why doesn’t “The Commission” simply revert to a free market? It’s obvious that their “control” isn’t needed. Answer: Because they would then have no “control”–and government is ALL ABOUT “CONTROL.” People deserve the government they created.