Virgin Atlantic Ghost Flights

By Kevin Swindlehurst | March 10, 2020

Virgin Atlantic flying practically empty.

Virgin Atlantic admits feeling forced to make some flights completely empty but why? Firstly under European law to maintain valuable airport slots those flights need to operate or be forfeited, under the 80:20 rule. Rather than lose valuable and expensive slots they are operating empty or almost empty flights.

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, many airlines are seeing a drop in demand for certain routes. In addition, other airlines will feel forced to consider the same steps to maintain their slots.

The rule which is called 80:20 means airlines must operate 80% of their allocated slots. In failing to do so the airline loses the right to those slots next season. (Season ends in October)

The UK Transport Secretary has called this rule “use it or lose it” he has made calls for this rule to be suspended at this time. In addition, IATA (International Air Travel Association) has also called for this rule to be temporarily suspended. A spokesperson for IATA said the following

“Given these extraordinary circumstances, as a result of the public health emergency, the collective view of the airline industry is that the application the 80% rule during the upcoming season inappropriate,” it said. “Flexibility is needed for airlines to adjust their schedules according to extraordinary demand developments.”

Unnessacary expenses.

Due to the COVID 19 outbreak, many airlines simply don’t have the demand on some routes to maintain them. With jet fuel prices sitting at an average of $69.2 USD per barrel for 2020, It simply isn’t viable for airlines to upkeep these costs as well as paying their crew to operate empty flights.

Graph showing predicted jet fuel prices. – Data Courtesy of IATA

Airlines simply cannot afford to lose slots some of which change hands for millions of dollars. BA recently acquired the remaining 12 slots left from Flybe.

What has been done about this?

In the last few hours President of The European Commission – Ursula von der Leyen has made the following statement.

Ursula Von der Leyen

“The Commission will put forward, very rapidly, legislation…We want to make it easier for airlines to keep their airport slot even if they do not operate flights in those slots because of the declining traffic. This temporary measure helps our industry but it also helps our environment. It will relieve the pressure on aviation industry and in particular on smaller airline companies.”

Protecting the assets and airlines in aviation is of vital importance. In addition, the suspension of this rule will be of benefit to the environment.
CO2 emissions from aviation fuel are 3.15 grams per gram of fuel. To enumerate this for a distance of 5556km using approximately 59.6 tonnes of fuel would be under typical load 92kg of CO2 per hour. (Boeing 747-400 aircraft with 416 seats 80% full).
In conclusion, this isn’t the first major change for aviation since the outbreak and likely won’t be the last.




This content was provided to MentourPilot by provider, Travel Radar Media. Travel Radar offers high quality content in partnership with Mentour


  • I’m afraid this Covid-19 outbreak will lead us to a major economic collapse, judging by the course heading of things…

    • A
      Mentour Pilot Admin

      Yes, its not entirely impossible but we will have to try and keep our spirits up.

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