Almost 40,000 planes have flown with less than 10% occupied seats since 2019

According to data from the British Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), almost 40,000 flights flew to or from the UK with less than 10% passengers, including more than 5,000 empty flights, since 2019.

An average of 130 completely empty flights per month during the period. According to British Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) data published on Wednesday 28 September, almost 40,000 flights flew to or from the UK with less than 10% of passengers, including more than 5,000 empty trips since 2019.

This data first caused a scandal among local environmental activists before spreading to the world of aviation and causing the British government to react. Despite the efforts made by the aviation sector to make the sector more respectful of the environment, this data is going to tarnish a bit more its image as the biggest polluter, especially in terms of carbon emissions.

The trace of a taxation of petroleum brought forward

On the side of environmental defenders, this new case has illustrated the need for large-scale efforts to limit pollution on the globe. “After a summer of record heat that melted the runways, this senseless waste of carbon by airlines is at odds with those who feel the brunt of our warming world. To end this for good, it’s time to start taxing petroleum to counter unnecessary emissions,” said Alethea Warrington, a member of the climate charity Possible, for The Guardian.

Asked by the British newspaper, a spokesman for Airlines UK nevertheless wanted to minimize the impact of these figures: “millions of aircraft arrived and left the United Kingdom between 2019 and 2022, with only a small proportion operating without or with few passengers and for various operational reasons motivated by the pandemic”.

However, the Covid-19 justification used by the latter is flawed because the number of empty flights remained at a similar level before, during and after the pandemic travel restrictions, according to CAA data. To illustrate this point, during a quarter of an hour outside the pandemic, 663 flights made the journey between Heathrow and the US, in one direction or the other, almost empty.

In response to this growing controversy, the British government has called ghost flights “harmful to the environment”. A spokesman for the Department for Transport even said it would work with the CAA to monitor aircraft occupancy and seek greater transparency on the issue of ghost flights.

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