Airlines forced to keep flying half-empty planes to secure rights
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    Airlines forced to keep flying half-empty planes to secure rights

    Airlines are forced to execute 80% of their planned flights, according to aviation regulations. Credit: Joe Goldberg (CC BY-SA 2.0)

    The growing concerns about the new coronavirus (Covid-19) are causing trouble in the airline industry, as several companies see themselves forced to fly with half-empty planes to secure their rights to fly in the next years.

    The International Air Transport Association (IATA) reported last week that several airlines had seen about half their passengers fail to show up for flights, as well as numerous cancelled bookings, spikes in requests for reimbursement, and unsold last-minute tickets.

    Airlines are forced to execute 80% of their planned flights, according to aviation regulations. If they do not, they lose their rights for the years to come. This means that, despite the low number of passengers on the planes, the airline companies keep flying.

    “Incomprehensible,” said Pieter Elbers, CEO of KLM, to NewMobility. “On the one side, the European Commission wants a Green deal, but on the other side, we are forced to fly and produce CO2 emissions just to safeguard our valuable slots,” he added.

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    IATA earlier estimated that the coronavirus could cost airlines up to $63 billion if the spread remains limited, and $113 billion if its spreads more broadly. Those half-empty flights could also have serious consequences for the environment. However, the European Commission has not introduced more flexible regulations so far, except for flights to and from China.

    After KLM reported the visible effects of the coronavirus on its passenger numbers, Dutch Minister for Infrastructure Cora van Nieuwenhuizen said that she would ask the European Commission to suspend the slot rules for the time being, NRC reports.

    In the meantime, the Commission stated that it would analyse “all possible options” to combat “the significant impact” of the coronavirus on the sector, “including the revision of the slot regulation.”

    Maïthé Chini
    The Brussels Times