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Lufthansa: From January 18,000 empty flights

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From: Dirk Walter

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A Lufthansa plane takes off in Munich. Some machines are empty. © FMG

In January and February, thousands of empty flights will take off from German airports – also from Munich. The reason is the rigid EU-wide regulation on slot allocation.

Munich / Frankfurt – Corona is shaking air traffic once again, this time it is the Omikron variant that forces you to reschedule at short notice. For this reason, Lufthansa will cancel 33,000 flights across Germany in the winter flight schedule. In the period from mid-January to February in particular, one observes “a sharp drop in bookings,” a spokeswoman told our newspaper. There would probably be far more flights that Lufthansa would not operate if it weren’t for the problem with slot rights. Slots are fixed time windows for take-offs and landings that the German aviation coordinator, a federal authority, allocates to the airlines. If they are not exercised, these rights expire – the “use or loose” principle applies (use it or lose it).

Munich Airport: Lufthansa plans 18,000 empty flights in winter

This leads to a ludicrous development that Lufthansa boss Carsten Spohr complained to the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung”: “We have to make 18,000 flights in winter just to secure our take-off and landing rights.” Some of the flights will also depart Munich take place, confirmed the group spokeswoman. “It cannot be broken down more precisely at the moment, the figures relate to the entire winter flight schedule.” Munich Airport has no information on this either. The fact that the statistics are to be pimped up with the empty flights is decidedly denied. “Empty flights are counterproductive and make no sense,” emphasizes spokesman Robert Wilhelm.

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Allocation of slots in air traffic: Lufthansa does not want the rights to expire

Lufthansa does not want to risk simply letting the rights expire – that would cause its coordinated system of feeder and long-distance flights to slip. It makes more sense to adjust the slot allocation, according to the Federal Association of the German Aviation Industry (BDL). The EU has already proven several times that this is possible. Both in the 2020 summer flight schedule and in the winter of 2020/21, the EU Parliament decided to suspend the rule (“slot waiver”) on the proposal of the EU Transport Commissioner. This winter, however, 50 percent of the registered flights must take place, 50 percent can expire. In view of the massive crisis, “this decision must be re-examined”, demands the BDL.

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The CSU MEP Markus Ferber also calls on the EU Transport Commissioner Adina Valean to act “urgently”. The EU Parliament and the Council would then decide on a new “slot waiver” “in a fast-track process”, assures Ferber. The Freising Green Member of the Landtag, Johannes Becher, goes one step further: The current slot system must be reformed “fundamentally”, as it allows several flights that are not fully used in quick succession on the same route.

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