The European Union is now under mounting pressure to relax and lift airport take-off limits in order to keep many “ghost flights” from functioning.
As per airline operators, the obligation to function at half capacity which really is 80% lower than pre-pandemic levels – is leading them to operate empty or half-empty flights, according to SchengenVisaInfo.com. In addition to the strain, passengers who are hesitant to travel owing to the Omicron COVID-19 variant issue, combined with often changing travel laws, are causing the industry to return to pre-pandemic levels even later than expected.
Furthermore, Belgium’s Brussels Airlines has revealed that it will be expected to operate 3,000 under-capacity flights until the end of March. The parent airline company of Brussels Airlines, Lufthansa Airways announced last month that it expects to run roughly 18,000 “pointless flights” across the 27-nation bloc during the winter season.
The transport minister of Belgium, Georges Gilkinet, has written to the European Commission, requesting that the regulatory body relax the slot requirements, noting that the result does not match with the EU’s carbon-emission targets. The recent effective quota was implemented in March 2021 to alleviate the hardships faced by airlines as the Coronavirus continues to disrupt the European and global travel sectors for the second year in a row, as seen by decreasing passenger flows.
“Despite our urgings for more flexibility at the time, the EU approved a 50 percent-use rule for every flight schedule/frequency held for the winter. This has clearly been unrealistic in the EU this winter against the backdrop of the current crisis,” a spokesman for the International Air Transport Association (IATA) told AFP.
The commission said in December that the 50% cap would be raised to 64% for the following summer months, which runs from April to November 2022.
Additionally, airlines have begun to announce alternate destinations for the summer season in the likelihood that governments will ease travel restrictions due to Omicron variant fears. A Hungarian-based ultra-low-cost carrier, Wizz Air, recently announced that 14 new flights to popular summer locations would begin service in March.
Routes to Faro, Palma de Mallorca, Tel Aviv, and Mykonos, as well as services from Milan, Rome, Vienna, and Naples, will be launched in the next two months. As Gilkinet pointed out, Wizz Air, like other airlines and governments, announced its carbon emission targets – a common worry for EU members. Despite growing concerns over the latest COVID-19 variant, Omicron, Wizz Air recently disclosed that 2.6 million people booked tickets throughout December due to the end-of-the-year vacations.
Officials observed that this was a nearly threefold growth over the 666,000 travelers processed during the same period last year, resulting in a load factor on its planes of 75.4 percent compared to 56.1 percent in December of 2020. This means that the airline flew 21.7 million passengers in total in 2021, a 30% increase over the 16.7 million flown in 2020, despite a year of continuous travel prohibitions and other limitations.
However, the Airports Council International (ACI) for Europe has blamed Wizz Air and Ryanair, its low-cost competitor, for huge losses that EU airlines will face in 2022. According to Oliver Jankovec, ACI’s Europe branch head, these two low-cost carriers have made a case for “unprecedented competitive pressures on Europe’s airports.”