Airlines make “ghost flights” to comply with European flight regulations

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Airlines waste thousands of gallons of kerosene consumed by empty “ghost planes” during the coronavirus outbreak. The reason: According to European regulations, operators are at risk of losing their start dates if they keep their planes on the ground.

The demand for flights has collapsed worldwide as a result of the corona crisis. However, under current European regulations, airlines must still use 80 percent of the time slots assigned to them for a takeoff. Otherwise, they risk losing these so-called “slots” to a competitor. Depending on the infrastructure, airports only have a limited number of time slots for take-offs and landings. Large airports that operate at their capacity limits are therefore subject to the 80/20 regulation.

Some airlines fly on empty planes

This has resulted in some operators flying empty planes in and out of European countries at an enormous cost, the British newspaper reported “The Times”. Other airlines, such as Lufthansa, drastically cut down their flight plans.

From the point of view of the German aviation industry, the 80/20 rule for slot allocation at airports should be temporarily suspended. In an acute crisis like the current one, the regulation is counterproductive, since now a huge proportion of the slots is in danger of decaying. The Federal Association of the German Aviation Industry (BDL) demands that the federal and state governments take over the costs for selected types of fees, such as aviation security fees, to protect the liquidity of the companies. This would be a relief with fixed costs.

The industry association IATA had estimated on Thursday the possible slump in sales in the global passenger business between 63 billion and 113 billion dollars (up to 101 billion euros), up to 19 percent of the total volume. This is comparable in dimension to the 2008/2009 financial crisis. The effects on the freight business cannot yet be estimated.

BDL: The economic damage to the Corona epidemic for air traffic is greater than the financial crisis

BDL chief Matthias von Randow assumes that the economic damage caused by the corona epidemic to air traffic will be of greater magnitude than previous crises. Von Randow said that the consequences of the corona crisis were already more serious than if there were comparable drops in demand such as in the financial and economic crisis or as a result of the Sars virus. Both the aviation and travel industries insist on rapid government aid.

Lufthansa and other airlines could face further burdens if ticket holders demand compensation in the event of short-term flight cancellations or delays in accordance with EU Passenger Guideline 261. While the Airlines Internet passenger portals see good chances for compensation ranging from 250 to 600 euros, claiming exceptional circumstances that relieve them of compensation.



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“Flying empty planes would be economically irresponsible and ecologically harmful”

According to experts, a process wave can be expected. “There will certainly be increased disputes as to whether flights canceled due to the corona virus represent a legitimate right to compensation,” says Heinz Klewe, managing director of the Arbitration Board for Public Transport (SOP) in Berlin.

Lufthansa, Ryanair and Co. had canceled their European flights solely for business reasons, argues, for example, Lars Watermann from the EUflight portal, who is already buying passengers their claims from the Corona cancellations. There were no official prohibitions to undertake flights in Germany or to Italy due to the spread of the virus. “If an underutilized flight is canceled for business reasons, this is not an exceptional circumstance that frees the airline from paying compensation.” The airline alone must bear the entrepreneurial risk of occupancy.

The German aviation industry has taken the opposite position. The cuts in the flight plans are ultimately due to exceptional circumstances, because the airlines only reacted to the spread of the virus. “Flying empty planes would be economically irresponsible and ecologically completely harmful,” said the BDL.



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German travel industry is under pressure

The consequences of the coronavirus spread for tourism are dealt with on Monday by a top round in the Federal Ministry of Economics. The tourism industry, which had to deal with the bankruptcy of the tourism group Thomas Cook and the airline Germania, had already lost pace last year.

The federal government’s tourism commissioner, Thomas Bareib, agreed to support the project. “The situation is very serious. The tourism industry is particularly affected. We now have to quickly examine where we can provide aid quickly and without red tape using existing instruments,” said the Parliamentary State Secretary in the Ministry of Economic Affairs. In the short term, you can certainly cushion some of it with short-time work benefits and liquidity aids.

dpa / Adam Bienkov / cm

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