“EU forces thousands of pointless flights into the skies”

EU rules oblige airlines to operate a certain number of flights to retain landing rights at European airports.  Today many companies would like to cut their number of flights in response to demand that has plummeted as a result of the pandemic, but they can’t if they want to retain slots at airports.  In coming months thousands of pointless flights could be carried out simply to comply with the rules.

In pre-pandemic times airlines were obliged to carry out 80% of their scheduled flights to retain landing rights or slots at major airports.  Under the pandemic the figure has been lowered to 50%, but this still seems too high. If the flights are not carried out slots can be awarded to a different airline.

Belgian flag carrier Brussels Airlines says it’s carrying out 3,000 pointless flights during the first three months of the year.

“A slot is essential for us to survive.  We can’t risk losing slots” says Brussels Airlines’ Maaike Andries.

Together with the Belgian government the company is asking the European commission to change the rules.

“Our long-haul network is pretty stable” says Andries. “Bookings for European destinations that rely heavily on the business traveller are experiencing a strong decrease in demand at the minute.  We know the flights will become attractive once again.  We need to hold on to our slots!”

Belgian mobility minister Gilkinet (Francophone green) has written to the European commission asking for a more flexible approach 

“Economically this can’t be justified! Airlines are already having a hard time and will now lose more cash.  You can’t explain it on ecological grounds either!”

Gilkinet claims the rules also benefit budget airlines that use regional airports where slots are not restricted, and they can more easily cancel flights. 

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