Ghost Flying Should Have Been Stopped Yesteryear, Shows Double Standard for Emissions

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Photo: Pixabay on
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Occasionally, I get the feeling that lawmakers are using a double standard, and drivers are always getting the short stick out of the "deal." At first, you might say that this only happens in Europe, or only in the UK, or only in the U.S., but it happens on a global scale.
Vehicle owners are the easiest target for legislators across the world when they need a cash cow. There is always a new tax or a decision to raise an existing tax or introduce one rule that will make everything more expensive, not necessarily better.

If you own a vehicle or just drive one, you are aware of how the price of fuel goes up instantly if something goes wrong somewhere in the world, but only goes down after many days or weeks since the situation returns to normal.

Last but not least, there are road taxes, bridge charges, tolls, and whatever comes in between. These always go up, and you rarely see an improvement after money from all motorists is sent to the government. Should I mention speed cameras in the middle of nowhere?

This double standard has reached an ironic level, and it only broadens the gap between strict enforcement in one area and lax in another. Even vehicle manufacturers are upset about the whole thing, as some have made statements on the matter. The most recent one I have encountered was this week.

However, the long introduction that I made can now lead to another story from two weeks ago. It refers to ghost flights, which only include the crew of an airliner, and that are made strictly to maintain the flight's “spot” in the airport's schedule.

As you can imagine, there were many empty flights that got in the air at the beginning of the Pandemic. Some were canceled, while others "had to be kept" to abide by a strict rule that was made by the European Commission to ensure that scheduled flights always have a slot within the airports they fly to and from.

However, it appears that Brussels Airlines operated 3,000 near-empty flights, and its parent company, Lufthansa, had run about 18,000 “pointless flights” over this winter, including those 3,000 mentioned above. Since the latest variant of Covid-19 is making its way across the World, many flights are flown without passengers.

Sunset over airplane wing in flight
Photo: Stefan Stefancik on
If nobody is going anywhere by plane and no tickets were sold, what was the point of a flight that did not even carry goods to at least justify burning tons of fuel (literally), and pumping tons of emissions (literally, again) into the atmosphere?

You do not have to be an expert in aviation to know that a flight without passengers is an incredible waste of money and generates emissions just for the sake of sticking to a rule that should have been changed since Spring 2020. Instead, the threshold of the "use rule," which refers to making a flight to keep a slot at an airport, was just reduced to 50 percent.

Airplanes need to be flown occasionally to ensure that all systems are operational, and pilots need to continually be trained. But that does not justify the fact that many flights are without passengers.

Mind you, that estimate is just for Lufthansa, but there are many other large companies that operate in this market and must comply with the same rule.

Can you imagine what kind of waste is being done? And how much jet fuel has been effectively wasted in almost two years because of this rule?

At the same time, airline officials complain about the hard times they are going through, as well as making it extra difficult for people to get a refund on their tickets because the flights get canceled. Isn't that outrageous?

This is the double standard I am referring to. If average citizens were doing something like this, a waste of this kind, it would have been taxed, fined, and punished in all the EU member states.

Eye of fire in the Gulf of Mexico
Photo: CNN
Yes, we banned plastic straws, plastic plates, and so on, but we make planes fly without passengers to keep their place in line at the airport. I'm not an expert in emissions or recycling, but that defeats the point of attempting to reduce emissions. To be clear, I support the ban on single-use plastic. There are alternatives. Please use them.

We might as well leave our cars running on the first lane of the road to keep our place in line for the next trip, right? Oh, no, wait, that is illegal in many states in the U.S. and most European countries, as idling your vehicle's engine is a waste of fuel and creates pollution. That is like ignoring a massive oil spill in the Ocean while asking people to commute by public transit or carpooling.

There are emissions calculators online that will show how much a flight will emit per passenger. On average, an airplane has thirty rows of seats, with six seats per row, minus the business class that has less, so we have a resulting average capacity of 150 passengers.

Multiply the emissions per passenger by 150, or more if it is a flight over an Ocean in a bigger airliner, and remember that the emissions will still happen even without passengers.

I do not know about you, but I must wonder what Greta Thunberg thinks of this. How come she is not outraged on the Internet? She must be busy saving the sharks from finning or something. Oh, she is on a school strike. That will show politicians she means business!

Speaking about business, it also reminds me of bailing out banks during a financial crisis, then seeing their managers throw parties on vacation with their bonuses for their arduous work. Do you see a pattern here?

All the above must have had you think that Europe is absurd. Should we discuss the fact that the land of the free does not have paid parental leave as standard for all employees?

Some corporation lobbyists say that it cannot be fixed affordably, so it must be true. Follow the money.
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Editor's note: For illustration purposes, the photo gallery shows images of airplanes, as well as images meant to depict emissions.

About the author: Sebastian Toma
Sebastian Toma profile photo

Sebastian's love for cars began at a young age. Little did he know that a career would emerge from this passion (and that it would not, sadly, involve being a professional racecar driver). In over fourteen years, he got behind the wheel of several hundred vehicles and in the offices of the most important car publications in his homeland.
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