Brussels Airlines has operated 3,000 empty or near-empty flights this winter to avoid losing take-off and landing rights at major airports, it has been revealed.
The airline’s parent company, Lufthansa, operated 18,000 flights this winter that would otherwise have been cancelled due to lack of passengers, including 3,000 flights under the Brussels Airlines banner, reports Le Soir and RTBF.
The news has prompted the Belgian federal government to write to the European Commission, urging it to rethink the rules on securing slots.
Before the pandemic hit, the rule was that airlines must operate flights in at least 80% of their scheduled take-off and landing slots, or they risked losing them.
This was revised down to 50% after coronavirus broke out, but this still remains much higher than the actual number of flights needed to meet passenger demand.
Belgium’s federal mobility minister Georges Gilkinet (Ecolo), has written to the European commissioner for transport, Adina Valean, to raise the issue.
Gilkinet said the rules were incomprehensible from an economic and ecological point of view – and the threshold for keeping these sought-after slots should be further reduced to give airlines more flexibility.
Lufthansa plans to cancel 33,000 scheduled flights by the end of March due to a drop in bookings caused by the omicron variant of coronavirus.