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Monday, May 23, 2022

The scandal of Britain’s ‘ghost’ flights | News

When the Covid pandemic struck in 2020, one of the hardest-hit industries was aviation. Passengers, either confined to their homes under lockdown or fearful of getting stuck abroad, simply stopped flying. But as the Guardian’s environment editor, Damian Carrington, tells Michael Safi, something strange was going on: just because planes didn’t have any passengers, that didn’t necessarily mean they didn’t keep flying. These flights, with few or no passengers, are known as ‘ghost flights’.

According to newly revealed official figures, almost 15,000 ghost flights have departed from UK airports in March 2020 and September 2021. Flying is one of the most polluting and carbon-intensive activities people can undertake and ghost flights have angered those campaigning for action on the climate crisis. Carrington explains that some of these flights are a result of the long-established system forcing airlines to maintain flights in their airport ‘slots’ or risk losing their position to rivals. But this doesn’t explain those flights in the pandemic period when the slot system was paused. So why did airlines continue to fly heavily polluting empty flights?

A plane comes in to land on the southern runway at Heathrow

Photograph: Steve Parsons/PA

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