Coronavirus: Airlines won’t need to keep flying ‘almost empty’ planes under temporary new rules

Airlines had to keep operating certain flights due to EU rules

Qin Xie
Tuesday 10 March 2020 16:02 GMT
President Ursula von der Leyen says EU has updated its rules around airport slots due to coronavirus

New rules introduced by the European Commission in response to coronavirus means airlines will no longer have to operate “almost empty” flights.

At the moment, airlines have to operate at least 80 per cent of scheduled flights or risk losing their airport slots to competitors.

But due to the impact of Covid-19, airlines have seen demand plummeting.

While they are able to cancel some routes, some carriers have been forced to fly near empty planes, known as “ghost flights” just to meet the requirements to keep their airport slots.

In a press conference, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen announced on 10 March that these rules will be temporarily relaxed to help the aviation industry cope with the impact of coronavirus.

She said: “The coronavirus outbreak has a major impact on the European and international aviation industry. We see that the situation is deteriorating on a daily basis and traffic is expected to decline further.

“This is why the commission is putting forward very rapidly legislation regarding the so called airport slots.

“We want to make it easier for airlines to keep their airport slot even if they do not operate flights in those slots because of the decline in traffic.”

Ms von der Leyen added that it will be a temporary legislation that will help the industry as well as the environment.

It’s hoped that the relaxing of the new rules will mean the end of the ghost flights.

Coronavirus is continuing its spread across Europe and the rest of the world.

Italy has declared that the entire country is on lockdown, with flights to the country from the UK now cancelled by many airlines.

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