Has BA Been Flying Empty Planes Across the Atlantic to Save Its Slots?

(Thanks to reader IAH-PHX…)

British Airways has been accused of flying empty widebodies across the Atlantic in a bid to keep its landing slots at London airports.  This seems a bit odd (and iah-phx doesn’t buy it at all) that they would fly empty planes from London to Houston (and other cities) considering the huge amount of fuel that would be used on the flight (the British articles about this all talk about the CO2 emissions from an empty plane).  For its part, BA says it has flown a handful of these so-called ghost flights because it needed to reposition crew (that doesn’t really make much sense either) and that no crews were available to staff these flights.  In short, I don’t know what the hell is going on over there. 

But what’s interesting is how the British press is outraged from an environmental standpoint.  While people in the US are still arguing about whether there’s any global warming at all, Europe has woven the issue into how it looks at every aspect of business. 


  1. A bunch of newspapers have picked up this story today, but there seems to be no further illumination of the facts by BA. It seems implausible that any airline would fly a widebodied airplane 4,000 miles to “save a slot,” as they could just take the plane for a short jaunt if that were the purpose. Nor would anyone use such a plane to ferry a few crewmembers (obviously, they could just hitch a ride on an existing commercial flight). Finally, I’ve never heard of anyone flying a series of empty int’l flights to “reposition” aircraft. Obviously, you’d take whatever revenue you could get out of LHR.

    The only way the story is logical is if there are some types of LHR slots reserved for transatlantic service that must be used for transatlantic service to be preserved.

  2. BA is not the first to be accused of this. BMI has been doing this for a while too. However they were not flying planes to another hemisphere. I believe they were flying empty planes to Leeds and other UK cities.

  3. Found out that it was Cardiff and BMI stopped the flights.

  4. We Americans don’t deny the warming part, just that it’s “global”

  5. There have always been positioning flights, especially in the charter and ad hoc business. No airline likes them particularly. And, as far as “We Americans and the warming” is concerned, despite the fact that less than five percent of the population of the world (you) use up 25 percent of the resources with the resulting pollution, it never is you anyway. Even your government says so. There is always somebody else, isn’t it? I thank OTR for pointing out, over and over, the idiocy of putting small planes on more and more routes, just so that half a dozen business people in every 10000 passengers can have the choice of a flight every 15 minutes. There is something wrong with the whole mindset. Perhaps said business people and the support staff should learn how to plan a day.