The origin of the "ghost flights" that rattled the skies of London

Heathrow Airport (London) is the most crowded in the world but there are “empty” flights? Let’s find out the reason there is 1-0-2 behind it.

If you have the opportunity to land at Heathrow Airport in London, you will be overwhelmed with the huge number of passengers at one of the busiest airports in the world.

Heathrow is estimated to handle up to 78 million passengers a year, equivalent to Chicago’s O’Hare airport. But if O’Hare has 7 runways, Heathrow only has 2. Therefore, for airlines, Heathrow is indeed a “good land for birds to perch” with “a crowded land”.

The origin of the "ghost flights" that rattled the skies of London
Heathrow Airport has only 2 runways compared to O’Hare Airport – 7.

That leads airlines to not be able to park at Heathrow all the time. They are forced to buy a “slot pair” – that is, pay for the space to take off and land at Heathrow. This parking place is extremely expensive but always in a state of “sold out” . Because there are only 650 slot pairs per day.

Consider the following example to see how expensive Heathrow is. As of 2016, Kenya Airways still lands at 6:30 and leaves at 8:30 every day. This is considered the “golden time frame” that night flights from the US, Asia… are all scrambling.

The Middle East is no exception. Oman Air has bought out the time frame 6:30 and 8:30 am from Kenya Airways for a “deadly crushing” amount of $ 75 million – a record high ever.

As for Kenya Airways, they have lost the main time frame to operate the flight from the African nation’s capital Nairobi to London because of the financial burden.

But buying a slot pair is one thing, keeping it is another. If anyone buys a time slot and “only” uses it less than 80%, prepare to return it to Heathrow because many other airlines are waiting!

And this is when “ghost flights” – Heathrow’s ghost flights were born. Surely you can also vaguely guess the reason?

The origin of the "ghost flights" that rattled the skies of London
The crowded scene was all too familiar in Heathrow.

This is as follows, in early 2007 British Mediterranean announced that it would indefinitely postpone its flight from London to Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Normally this route leaves from London at 2:35pm and will return to London at 12pm the next day.

The reason for the delay was the political turmoil in Tashkent and according to the airline, it was too late for them to react. They cannot open a new international flight to replace the above time frame. There isn’t enough time to hire airport staff, baggage handlers, interpreters and dozens of other jobs.

As a result, the British Mediterranean suffered a loss regardless. They asked the crew to fly to Cardiff (the capital of Wales) at 2:35 pm, stay overnight and then… return to London at noon the next day. Note that this distance is only… 244km.

It is known that London – Cardiff flights do not carry passengers, not to make a profit, but only to meet Heathrow’s requirement to “exploit the time frame from 80% or more” . In general, to reserve a place !

Needless to say, the work of the British Mediterranean angered environmental organizations and many people, because the flight distance of less than 250km can emit up to 5 tons of toxic CO 2 .

However, the airline’s plane still regularly flies between London and Cardiff for months. After the incident, the name “ghost flight” – ghost flights also became very popular.

In fact, before that, the use of “passenger flights” had taken place, but not with the same popularity as with the British Mediterranean. After all, after consecutive losses, at the end of 2007, the company had to sell itself to a new owner.

The origin of the "ghost flights" that rattled the skies of London
After all, Heathrow is still incredibly crowded!

Today, the “ghost flight” trick seems to have disappeared after the painful fall of the British Mediterranean.

But its variations are still there. In the winter when passenger demand for flights decreases, many airlines cut long routes to increase domestic or short-haul flights.

But so far, Heathrow still only has… 2 runways and is being utilized up to 99% capacity. The problem of finding and buying and maintaining the flight time frame has always been a headache for airlines at Heathrow – the most crowded, expensive and unique airport in the world.