This winter, Lufthansa will run 18,000 “empty and unneeded” flights that would have been cancelled otherwise due to a shortage of passengers. The aircraft will go off despite the fact that the European Union has mandated that airlines use 80 percent of their airport slots. They fear losing their take-off and landing privileges to other carriers if they don’t.
By the end of March, one of Lufthansa’s subsidiary, Brussels Airlines, expects 3,000 passenger-free flights. According to Carsten Spohr, Lufthansa’s CEO, the flights are “empty, superfluous flights only to secure our landing and take-off rights.”
Belgium’s transportation minister, Georges Gilkinet, has written to the European Commission, requesting that a statute be changed to prohibit “environmental, economic, and social nonsense” flights. The present climate pledge of the European Union is to reduce carbon emissions by 55% by 2030 and achieve climate neutrality by 2050.The announcement comes less than two months after the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow. “The EU clearly is in a climate emergency mode…” tweeted Greta Thunberg in response to the news.
Regulators, on the other hand, are refusing to budge. As reported by Euronews, the European Commission for Transport has indicated that it will not lower the minimum below 50%, with a spokesperson claiming that the present reduction is sufficient.
“Whereas in nearly every other section of the world, climate-friendly exceptions have been discovered in times of pandemic,” said Carsten Spohr, CEO of Lufthansa Group. “This is not permitted in the same way in the EU.”
Both the EU and Lufthansa have vowed to cut carbon emissions in half over the next decade, at least on paper. However, given that a single return flight from New York City to Europe emits about a ton of carbon dioxide, this disaster flies in the face of those pledges.
The Lufthansa Group said in December that the Omicron version had forced them to cancel 33,000 flights from their winter timetable, accounting for 10% of their whole network plan. They also have their own climate goal: comparable to the EU, they want to cut net CO2 emissions in half by 2030 and attain a CO2 balance of zero by 2050.
Of course, the remedy is simple: these pointless ghost flights must end immediately.
But, because the bottom line is still king, even in the face of a worldwide pandemic — not to mention climate change — this game of chicken is unlikely to end anytime soon.