What is Ghost Flight?
As the airline travel demand fell sharply due to the effect of the Corona (Covit-19) epidemic, there was an increase in ghost flights in the sky. Ghost flight is to fly with passenger-free planes. So why do airlines want to fly when there are no passengers? Of course they don’t want to fly but there is a reason beyond this action. The most important reason for this is the risk of losing slot time rights allocated to airline companies by airport authorities or regulatory institutions.
What is a Slot?
Slot (Airport slot) is the right given by the airport operator or owner to the airline company for landing and departure on certain days and hours. Each year, 43% of global airline traffic, that is, more than 1.5 billion passengers, depart from the slot-coordinated (Level 3) airport, which is more than two hundred (200) in number. It is predicted that the increase in the number of slot coordinated (Level 3) airports will continue due to the fact that the number of airports in the world is not sufficient to meet the demand and that the newly constructed airports will not be able to fully meet this demand in the future.
Rules for the use of slots are regulated through the Worldwide Slot Guidelines (WSG) created by IATA (International Air Transport Association).
What is Worldwide Slot Guidelines (WSG)?
Worldwide Slot Guidelines (WSG) is a guide document created by IATA, one of the influential organizations in the regulation of international aviation. This document aims to protect the rights of airports, airlines and passengers through certain rules. Slot conferences are organized by IATA periodically to update the WSG document. These conferences are held in the form of a forum, and representatives of licensed airlines and representatives of airport-owned organizations attend. In addition, different parties can be invited as observer status. The WSG document evaluates airports in three (3) categories.
What are Airport Slot Categories?
All airports operating in the world are evaluated in three (3) different categories in WSG document.
Level 1 Airport: The airports with the capacity to meet the demands of the users with all their facilities are categorized as Level 1 airports.
Level 2 Airport: The airports where there is intensity in meeting the demands of the users on certain days, weeks or seasons and where the flight plans are arranged by mutual agreement between the airline company and the airport owners are categorized as Level 2 airports.
Level 3 Airport: The airports where slot times must be organized by a coordinator for all airlines and aircraft operators in order to land and take off from the airport are categorized as Level 3 airports. Due to the intensity experienced at Level 3 airports, each airline is allocated for certain hours.
According to WSG document, airlines lose their rights when they do not use the hours allocated to them at a certain rate. This rule is called “Use it or Lose it” rule. This rule brings with it the concept of ghost flying.
What is Rule of Use it or Lose it?
If the airlines do not use the slot right allocated to them by the airport owner at the rate of 80%, there is a risk of losing this slot right.
Airline companies also have the right to transfer their slot rights to other airline companies in numbers that can be expressed in millions of dollars. For this reason, they can aim to fly 80% of flights without having to worry about passenger situations, so that slots with vested rights are not lost.
After the countries restricted passenger transportation due to the Covit-19 epidemic, some airline companies had to make a ghost flight (non-passenger flight) in order not to lose their slot rights allocated to them.
The Rule of Use it or Lose it during Covid19
Will the Ghost Flight Continue? Airline companies are already experiencing financial difficulties due to the Covit-19 outbreak. Also, the “Use it or Lose it” rule was suspended by IATA during the epidemic to prevent unnecessary flight without losing slots. Thus, the airline companies will not lose their rights that they have obtained by providing service for years due to this extraordinary situation developed beyond their control.