Virgin Atlantic forced to operate empty flights due to coronavirus

Virgin Atlantic is ‘forced’ to operate ‘almost empty’ ghost flights amid coronavirus fears because airports are refusing to relax multi-million pound ‘use it or lose it’ slot allocations.

Virgin Atlantic has admitted flying planes that are ‘almost empty’ in order to keep take-off and landing slots despite demand plummeting due to the coronavirus.

Chief executive Shai Weiss said the airline is being ‘forced’ to continue with flights because rules about slot allocation have not been relaxed.

Slots at capacity-constrained airports such as Heathrow can be worth millions of pounds.

The European Union operates a so-called ‘use it or lose it’ rule which means airlines must use 80% of their slots or risk them being taken away in the following year.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps wrote to the European Commission on Monday, urging it to allow ‘flexibility and adaptability’ in relation to slots.

Aircraft being flown near-empty to keep slots ‘would be entirely out of step with both the United Kingdom’s and the European Union’s climate commitments’, he added.

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Written by

Lizzie Day


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