IN A BID TO retain their landing slots at UK airports, British airlines have been flying empty jets on routes with no demand due to the coronavirus outbreak.
This ‘use it or lose it’ rule was operating all of last week, adhering to what’s known as the “80/20 rule,” whereby airlines have to operate 80 percent of their allocated airport slots or a competitor can potentially claim them.
"Passenger demand for air travel has dramatically fallen due to Covid-19 and in some instances we are being forced to fly almost empty planes or lose our valuable slots", said Shai Weiss, chief executive of Virgin Atlantic.
So we did the math and figured out what an empty Boeing 777 flying from London Heathrow to New York JFK would emit in terms of carbon dioxide. Here are the assumptions, based on what seem to be accepted figures. A 777-300 with 299 seats available, emitting 102g/km per seat and flying 5541km from London to the Big Apple would chug out nigh-on 169 tonnes of carbon dioxide.
A Lamborghini Aventador S Roadster emits 370g/km. You’d need to drive it 456,728km in order to equal one empty transatlantic flight. Given that the average yearly mileage of an Aventador hovers around 3500km, that’s 130 years of ownership. Or, if you factor in the return leg, 260 years.
To put it another way, it’s 160 people driving 15,000km per year in a Prius. And that’s for one flight. Thankfully the requirement to operate the flights to retain slots was temporarily lifted yesterday, but by that point hundreds of empty flights had departed UK airports.
With fewer than 4000 Aventadors in existence, even using a worst use-case scenario, the total global fleet of Aventadors will not have covered more than 126 million km. That’s average kilometres for every Aventador, for every year of its production (2011-2020).
So by that reckoning, you’d only need to run return transatlantic ghost flights on one route (Heathrow to JFK ) for less than five days to equal the carbon footprint of every Aventador ever built. And that could potentially have been avoided by the single stroke of a bureaucrat’s pen.
Maybe a sharper statistician than myself could figure out whether two weeks of ghost flights on all routes out of the UK have delivered more carbon dioxide than every kilometre driven by every Lamborghini ever built. Over to you.