Over 5,000 completely empty passenger flights have flown to or from UK airports since the beginning of the year.
More than 35,000 flights have been almost empty since the beginning of the year, with less than 10% of seats filled, according to an analysis of data from the Civil Aviation Authority. There are about 40,000ghost flights.
In one quarter, 62 empty planes left the airport for Poland, while in another, almost 700 empty flights went to and from the US. The second quarter was during the Covid-19 epidemic.
Air travel results in more carbon emissions per hour than any other consumer activity and is dominated by a small group of frequent fliers. They called the revelations shocking and said a jet fuel tax was necessary. Ghost flights are described by the UK government as being harmful to the environment.
It's not clear why ghost operate flights. Data that explains the practice is not published by airlines. The use-it-or-lose-it airport slot rules were suspended during the height of the swine flu. There are other reasons cited by airlines. These can't be verified and more transparency is required.
Previous data only counted international departures, so the new data gives a complete picture of the number of UK ghost flights. International arrivals and flights within the United Kingdom are now included. A series of FOI requests by The Guardian led to the publication of this data on a quarterly basis.
"Publication of this data is a step in the right direction, but we need more transparency to understand why these inefficient, polluting practices continue, and to hold the main airline culprits to account." The revelation that so many empty planes have been burning fossil fuels and adding to the CO2 in the atmosphere is shocking.
The Department for Transport will work with theCAA to get more transparency on the issue of phantom flights.
There have been an average of 130 completely empty flights per month in the last year. The second highest amount of empty flights was seen in the second quarter of 2022. The airlines chose to fly empty planes because they didn't think the impact of Covid on aviation was relevant.
The top seven airports in the UK accounted for two-thirds of the empty flights. The number of empty flights did not correlate with the number of flights at each airport.
Since the beginning of 2020 there have been an average of 1,200 ghost flights per month. Most of these were to foreign destinations.
The busiest airports in the UK have accounted for two-thirds of the empty flights since the beginning of the year. Edinburgh and Glasgow both had a lot of flights.
The aviation industry cannot be trusted to get its emissions on track to tackle the climate crisis according to a climate charity.
She said that the waste of carbon by airlines flies in the face of those feeling the full brunt of the warming world. It's time to tax kerosene to discourage unnecessary emissions.
A spokesman for Airlines UK said that there were millions of flights in and out of the UK over the course of two years, with only a tiny fraction without passengers or passengers at all.
Airlines don't operate ghost flights to keep slots. The normal 80:20 rule, meaning 80% of flights on a route must operate to retain the valuable slots, only applies to the busiest airports and was suspended from March 2020 because of the Pandemic. In October of 2021, it was reintroduced as a 50:50 rule.
Some airlines said that they had ghost flights that flew in supplies related to Covid during the Pandemic. Since the beginning of 2020 there have been less than 300 flights carrying cargo but no passengers.
During the Pandemic, the number of flights fell at the airport. British nationals returning from countries on the'red list' were included in flights into the city.
The reasons for the high number of ghost flights were listed by the airport. The average passenger loads per flight have returned to their pre-restrictions levels. Repositioning of aircraft was one of the reasons given by Bristol Airport.
The busiest airport in the UK is Heathrow. During the Pandemic, no operator would have flown a plane without it being commercially viable or without an operational need. Cargo operations were switched to as borders were closed to passengers.
During a climate crisis, putting tens of thousands of empty or near-empty planes in the air is a huge waste of money. It makes a mockery of peoples efforts to reduce emissions. There is something wrong with the business model if the airlines do this.
UK airlines are committed to achieving net zero emissions by the year 2020. We are making jet zero a reality by modernising our airspace to further reduce inefficiencies and using at least 10% sustainable aviation fuel by 2030.
The provision of a record year for airport passengers in the UK highlights a wider problem. The data shows that 50,000 aircraft arrived or left from both airports in the same year. This must cast doubt on the airports claims that they are full and need to expand in order to respond to the urgent climate challenge.
Air crew training flights are not included in the data. The Guardian didn't include ghost flights to oil rigs. Bournemouth Airport said the majority of the empty flights were run by companies that are tenants at the airport.