Thursday, 06 January 2022 10:10 AM
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Europe’s sky is filling up with near-empty polluting planes that serve little other purpose than safeguarding airlines’ valuable time slots at some of the world’s most important airports.
The highly contagious omicron variant of COVID-19 has put many off flying, and because of it, getting people and goods from point A to point B has become an afterthought for thousands of flights. It has created strange bedfellows, with environmentalists and major airlines united to cut down on empty or near-empty flights by pressuring the European Union — a pledged global leader in combating climate change — to tweak the rules on airport slots.
“The EU surely is in a climate emergency mode,” activist Greta Thunberg tweeted sarcastically this week, linking to a story about Brussels Airlines making unnecessary flights.
The company has said that if the EU doesn’t take action, it would have to fly some 3,000 journeys this winter primarily to safeguard its network rights.
German giant Lufthansa said it would have to fly an additional 18,000 “unnecessary” flights through the winter to hold on to landing slots. Even if the holidays brought a big increase in passengers — marked by thousands of flight cancellations that left travelers stranded — the rest of the winter period could be slow as omicron surges worldwide.
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William Rusher, the editor of the conservative National Review, quoted economist Milton Friedman as saying that “if the government were to take over the Sahara Desert, there would be a shortage of sand in five years.”
Ditto, landing slots?
If the airlines could “rent” landing slots from a private entrepreneur, then surely an effective and efficient solution could be found that the didn’t entail flying empty place around at a staggering cost? But once the Gooferment politicians and bureaucrats get involved everyone suffers.