Completely empty airliners ply the skies over Europe: because of the omicron, passengers cancel reservations, but the planes are forced to fly - otherwise, they will lose their place at the airport.
Several EU countries are calling on the European Commission to change the rules, because of which, for example, Brussels Airlines has planned 3 thousand "forced" empty flights in the coming months, and a giant like Lufthansa - 18 thousand.
Georges Gilkine, Minister of Mobility of Belgium:
“For airlines that are already suffering from covid, empty flights are ecologically and economically nonsense. I sent a letter to the European Commission, but have not received a response yet. I asked the Commission to change the rules so that there are no empty planes in the sky.”
According to European rules, airlines purchase a time slot from the airport for takeoff or landing; and if this interval is not used, it may be sold to another carrier. It is necessary to coordinate the slot not only with the airport but also with the European air traffic control authorities.
Maayke Andris, representative of Brussels Airlines:
“If these general rules do not become more flexible, our airline will be forced to operate unnecessary flights. For us, this means 3000 flights just to confirm the right to take off and land. From an environmental and economic point of view, these flights could well be waived ".
On March 20th, during the first wave, the European Commission suspended these rules. But in the spring of the 21st, I returned it back. The EU leadership believes that the impact of the omicron will not be as negative as the airlines portray: they believe that at the beginning of the year the number of loaded flights will even grow and will amount to about 80% of the pre-coronavirus level.